How can parents and carers manage children’s use of technology to reap the benefits, without them becoming completely dependent on it?
1. The right age
The government and some parenting and medical bodies recommend no screen time (tablet or TV) before the age of 2, then a maximum of an hour up to 5 years old, and two hours for 5 and older. But experts like Dr Kristy Goodwin and Associate Professor Sandra Gallenhof say these guidelines may be unrealistic in this technological age and suggest carefully selecting the right apps, regulating screen time and watching the child’s habits for alarm bells.
2. Have a Family Media Management Plan
Agree when kids can use technology, what they can use and for how long, so they have very clear guidelines. Don’t be in a hurry to introduce them to technology. Wait until they show an interest and then guide them with minimal access at early ages.
3. Choose apps carefully
With well over 300,000 children’s apps on both the iTunes store and Google Play, parents are spoilt for choice. Look for simple designs. In book apps, check what level of control you have. Can you mute background music, and read and turn pages as you like? Can you highlight words? Is the app interactive? Avoid those that are automated or read themselves, like movies, or are just digital replicas of a real experience.
4. Be with your child
It is important that the device is not being used routinely as a digital babysitter. Co-view with your child, even during simple things like looking at photos on a smartphone. Children need that “serve and return” type of interaction where they can ask a question and get an answer.
© Danil Roudenko | Dreamstime.com – Wherever, whenever.
5) Avoid multi-tasking
If you notice your child doing one thing on one device, while listening to music and using a smartphone, don’t assume that’s super smart. While they may be doing a whole lot more, they are not actually doing it properly. It’s called “continuous partial attention” or “task-switching”. We might think we are doing three or four things simultaneously but we’re not. Our attention is dedicated to one thing and then we are jumping to another. So we are diluting our ultimate effectiveness.
© Berndneeser | Dreamstime.com – Focus attention one activity at a time
6) Watch for potential red flags
Alarm bells should ring if you see your child is too preoccupied with technology or if it’s causing them to withdraw from social situations. Also if they are tired, irritable and not getting enough sleep or even having techno tantrums when a device is switched off.
7) Safety is the ‘off’ switch
Safety in using devices starts the minute you hand over your smartphone. Teach children how to switch off. We should manage technology, not allow technology to manage us or our children. The iPad is only five years old so how kids use it is an experiment in progress.
© Cromary | Dreamstime.com – Encourage play time between each other, without a device.
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