So much has changed in the past decade or so with how reliant we are on technology. When my daughter was born in 2001, we didn’t have mobile devices like we do today. Cell phones were basic and only used for calling. There were laptops and DVDs but no one used them in the car or while out and about. Streaming media wasn’t even a “thing” when we could only connect on dial-up. Now, it’s rare to see a group of people without their heads down and faces lit by a digital screen. But how does that affect our kids? Should parents be concerned with the issue of children and technology?
Recently, I read this article on Yahoo.com about technology in parenting. It highlighted some research studies, what experts say, and what some parents say. I definitely feel that restricting kids under a certain age to any screen time is extreme and closing a lot of doors to what they can gain from it, but I also feel that using it like a babysitter or pacifier is just as bad.
Balance of Children and Technology in Parenting
For us, it’s all about balance. We want our daughter to be familiar with new technology and to know how to use it to her advantage. There are some really enjoyable and educational apps and shows that are fantastic for kids in every age range. These are absolutely wonderful tools when used right. That said, we have found that strict limits on what she can access and for how long has been crucial to her mental and physical well-being.
Since we homeschool Munchkin, she always has more free time on her hands than other children her age. Setting time limits on her recreational usage of electronics (the general term we use for smartphones, tablets, game consoles, television, and computers) during the school year happened almost automatically. After all, she needed to do her studies and the rest of the time would be spent as a family or with friends.
One summer, though, I decided to lift those limit and just enjoy her time off. Boy, was that a bad decision. I instantly noticed a difference in her. She became lazy and defiant. She complained about having to do ANYthing in the house, even the most basic chores or errands. Worst of all, she seemed to be in a bad and anxious mood most of the time. Thinking it might have to do with her screen time, I decided to put the restriction back on to only one hour a day at most.
Oh.my.goodness. She changed back to her happy and nice self almost instantly! The one hour was enough to like she was getting some down time in but not so much that she turned into Miss Hyde. No wonder parents have a hard time with their kids when they have them glued to a screen at every waking moment!
Children and Technology – Use VS Abuse
At that moment, it was apparent that balance is our friend when it comes to technology. So, we’ve set and stuck by a few rules for her:
- Don’t use smartphones while with friends or other company. It’s rude and that face-to-face engagement is crucial for relationships.
- Texts can wait. Unless it’s absolutely time sensitive, you don’t HAVE to answer people the instant you get a message from them.
- Only go online when we’re home and in the room. There’s too much danger when a child/teen has open access to the internet when alone.
- Only use devices after getting permission. Teens have no self-control (and she even realizes this) so asking first helps us to teach her when is the right time and when it’s not. It also helps prevent her from getting trouble for over- or improper usage.
- No electronics (when in the car) when it gets dark. Frans says this isn’t true anymore that it’s bad for the eyes but I still believe it is.
As our daughter gets older and as situations change, we do need to adjust our guidelines here and there. However, these seems to remain constant and work out well for us. She still “forgets” to ask sometimes and we catch her playing when she should be studying but I think that’s just part of her being young and being easily sidetracked. After all, I have to admit that it is so, so easy to get distracted… SQUIRREL! Plus, she sees me on the laptop and my smartphone most of the time (for work) and figures she can do it too. Parenthood just doesn’t seem to get any easier, does it?
Where do you weigh in on parenting and technology? Yes, no, or a mix of both?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.