“I swear my baby learned how to unlock my phone before she could speak”.
This phrase sometimes shows pride for children’s abilities, while on the other hand, it makes parents feel fearful for their development.
First of all, parents must keep in mind that technology and tech gadgets are here to stay.
Therefore, the issue is not how to make children stop using them. Rather the focus should be on teaching children how to responsibly and healthily use these gadgets.
No matter how strict your rules are, when it comes to technology and gadgets, children will find a way to be around them, at school or, when they are playing with friends. So the idea is to try balancing your children’s access to technology with other activities.
You cannot expect your child to spend less time in front of a screen when you are constantly watching TV shows or mindlessly scrolling on your feed.
Research shows that 98% of children today live in a home that has at least one tech gadget.
On average, children under 8 spend at least two hours every day in front of screens.
This figure has been consistent over the past decade; however, it shows a tendency to rise as smartphones and tablets play an even bigger role part in our daily lives.
Extensive research has been done by psychological institutions and healthcare organizations to understand how the technology that surrounds us, affects the development and well-being of children and teenagers. All of them agree that babies under 18 months should spend zero time in front of these technological gadgets. This time is crucial for their cognitive and motor skill development; therefore, passively viewing images in front of screens not only slows down the development of their motor skills (how they manipulate with objects, crawling, walking, etc.), but it also overloads their nervous systems with sounds and images.
Other negative effects of technological gadgets on children include:
Promoting a passive and sedentary lifestyle.
Affecting sleep and behavioral patterns.
Reducing their ability to be imaginative and makes it difficult to connect to people around them
Does technology influence children only negatively?
There are very important positive impacts of technological gadgets that have to be acknowledged as well such as:
· Helping children learn subjects that have been traditionally considered as challenging like math’s, physics or foreign languages through educational apps and not only
· Preparing children for a future that is more and more focused on technology by giving them the necessary skills to handle new systems proficiently.
· Developing children’s decision-making abilities by decreasing the action-taking time
So, what boundaries should parents set to the usage of technological gadgets?
1. Teach children how to use these gadgets responsively
It is not efficient to simply set a limit of one hour per day, during which your children can do whatever they want with a phone or tablet. The content circulating the internet can be harmful to them, or they may end up sharing sensitive data with strangers. It is important that as a parent you take special care to help them understand that the internet should be used with responsibility and care to be enjoyed properly. Read this guide on how to keep your kids safe online.
2. Co-view and co-play with your child on these gadgets
When children are using these gadgets they do not have to be spending much time alone.
Engage with them, try to understand their interests, and be part of their activities. This way, you can bond with them and offer guidance on the content they are viewing.
3. Do not overreact if they make mistakes
Despite how mature and responsible your children might be; they will make mistakes eventually. Do not overreact and punish them at the first mistake they make. Communicate and explain to them, why the way they handled that gadget was wrong or why what they posted online was not okay. Open communication and forgiveness from the parent will further encourage the child to behave more carefully and will strengthen the trust between you and your child.
As with everything that you teach to your child, “practice what you preach” always feels relevant.