Our kids are growing up with technology practically everywhere they look. That said, health and safety concerns surround the use of electronics – especially when it comes to children. The Australian Government’s Department of Health recommends that children under 2 should spend no time watching TV or using other electronic devices and that children ages 2 through 5 should have no more than one hour of screen time per day. With that in mind, it’s not exactly earth-shattering breaking news that some parents are wondering, ‘Should I even allow my child to use technology?’
You’re worried that your child is watching YouTube, playing video games or taking the tablet out way too much. Maybe you have concerns about what he’s doing online, who he’s interacting with (virtually) or that his tech time is leaving physical activity out of the picture. Does this mean that it’s time to ban technology use? Before putting a sweeping ban on anything electronic, consider the possibility of setting up a schedule. If you haven’t been strict about it, take this as the opportunity to put limits on when (and for how long) your child can go online, use a laptop, play video games or use a smart phone. Following the government’s guidelines for kids 5 and under can help to minimize health risks and make sure that he’s not overloading on screens. Older children can have some extra time, within boundaries. Give older kids specific times that tech use is allowed and make sure to monitor them.
Not all tech-time pursuits are of the ‘entertainment’ variety. Your 10-year-old may need to go online as part of a school assignment or to study for an exam. Negotiating educational use of technology means that a total ban on technology just won’t work. You don’t have to give in and let all electronics slide their way into your child’s day. Make the differentiation between educational and non-educational uses – for both you and your child. Doing so helps your kiddo to understand that technology can be helpful, useful and much more than a ‘plaything’.
Along with school work, some apps (and websites) also offer educational content. Whether it’s learning new vocabulary or building budding math skills, electronics can help your child academically. Does this mean that you should let him play all day, provided he’s only using ‘educational’ apps? No. But, using these types of programs within limits is something to consider when negotiating a tech-time ban.
You’ve taken all of your child’s tech toys away. Now what? Do you expect that he’s going to pick himself up and immediately run outside, exploring, making discoveries and keeping himself busy? It might happen. You wish that it would happen. But, in reality he’s devastated by the sudden ban, and a hefty backlash ensues. He pouts, he whines and he refuses to do anything – except sulk. It’s tempting to give in and lift the ban. Completely reversing your decision may not be what your child needs right now. A total electronics outage is a shock. Instead of pulling the plug for good, take his e-usage down a notch. Setting limits and redirecting his choices (to more educational options) allows your child to keep technology in his life, without going overboard.
Should you banish technology in your home? It’s not an ‘out-of-the-realm-of-possibilities’ question. Between your child’s seeming addiction to his smart phone, your worries about his health (developing a sedentary lifestyle) and any other concerns that his constant texting, gaming and surfing bring up, you’re considering taking everything electronic away. Even though a total ban may seem like a magic fix, banning all electronics doesn’t teach your child the responsibility needed for growing up in a tech-filled work. From the computers at school to the laptop that he’ll likely use when he grows up and gets a job, your child needs to know how to use electronics within limits and in ways that are beneficial.
Share your tips on how you’ve helped reach a balance with your kids on using technology by leaving a comment in the ‘Leave a reply’ section below.