It can’t be avoided: technology is all around us. In fact, a 2013 study from Common Sense Media reported that kids eight and under spend around two hours a day with a screen. With the abundance of smart phones and tablets, it’s easy to see how unmanaged screen time can be associated with negative side effects in young children such as childhood obesity, increased isolation, and cyber bullying. However, if parents are involved in monitoring children’s time with technology, it can be used to aid in their development instead of harming it. With great parenting alongside limited screen time, young children can be brought up healthy in the digital age. Here are a few ways you can use your child’s screen time to his or her advantage.
Benefits of Online Engagement
Despite screen time being associated with negative side effects, it can actually be used to foster educational growth and encourage children to participate in online communities. Benefits of engaging online include:
- Keeping already established friendships connected
- Finding new peers who have the same interests
- Fostering self-expression through artwork, music, and books
- Establishing and expressing individual identity
For children to reap the full benefits that technology provides, there must also be rules in place to ensure the time spent online is being used productively. Here are a few things to keep in mind as your child interacts online.
Screen Time Usage
It’s important for parents to limit how much time young children are spending online through their smart phone or tablet. Make sure you establish rules with your children regarding appropriate virtual communication, ex: when they can use technology, how long they can spend on it, and whom they are allowed to contact. A few good questions to ask yourself are:
- Is your child allowed to text or instant message? If so, who and between what times?
- What apps can your child download? Do you need to set parental locks before an app can be purchased?
- Does your child need to take his or her phone or tablet to school?
- What time does the technology need to be put “to bed?”
- Are there consequences for violating the agreed upon rules?
Teach Your Kids Netiquette
A lot of rules that govern online interactions simply carry over from teaching children manners. Children need to know that just because the person they are virtually communicating with isn’t in front of them does not mean that negative words have less of an impact. Taunting and cruel messages, or even impersonating a peer, are all forms of cyber bullying and need to be monitored. Within your household, specific rules of ethical online communications need to be established, so that young children know what is expected in their virtual conduct. Some questions to encourage kids to ask themselves would include:
- Would I say the words I am typing to this person’s face?
- Would what I’m saying hurt this person’s feelings if taken out of context?
- Will this photo embarrass someone?
- Would my parents approve of this message?
Many times the presence of technology in the hands of a child can cause them to be isolated from the person right beside them! Talk to your children about being present in the moment and interacting with the people around them. This will play an integral role in fulfilling young children’s need for social engagement and prevent them from being isolated. For great ideas on how to get kids involved, check out our family engagement resources here.
Every app and platform for virtual communication has privacy settings. Making sure your children understand your rules, such as whom they can engage with online or through text is important in keeping them safe. It is better to have all personal information secure so that only select people can see it. Children need to understand that those privacy standards do NOT apply to family members. Technology guidelines need to be set from the beginning to let your child know what is expected in regards to your right to see their phone or tablet.
We hope you enjoy learning more with your kids and allowing technology to help them do so! For a list of educational apps to get your kids started, check out the following website: http://www.parents.com/fun/entertainment/gadgets/best-educational-apps-for-kids/