Technology has become a mainstay in our everyday lives, and it’s no different for our children. From video games to smartphones, kids are exposed to technology at every turn.
While many of these devices provide various benefits for learning and development, too much screen time can have negative effects on both their physical and mental health.
This is why you have to take steps to ensure that they use technology in a balanced way so they can reap its rewards while avoiding potential dangers.
Keep reading to learn some tips for how you should approach teaching your children about responsible digital engagement and ways you can monitor their technology usage so you can rest better knowing they’re in a safe environment both online and offline.
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How Much Time Should They Spend on Tech?
First, make sure everyone in the household is on the same page. Mom and Dad have to enforce the same rules, and if you’re going to have a caregiver, make sure to run nanny background checks and speak with references to ensure that they’re reliable and can be counted on to follow your requirements to the letter.
Now, as far as a “how much is too much” breakdown, you can use the following recommendations based on age:
- 0-18 months: No screen time
- 18 months to 2 years: Limited screen time encouraged only if used for video-chatting with family members
- 3 to 5 years: 1 hour of educational and recreational programming per day
- 6 to 8 years: Max. of an hour or two a day, split between educational/recreational programming
- 9 to 12 years: Same as above
- 13+ years: No more than four hours a day
Of course, these are all general recommendations; you can determine what is best for your child.
Creating Ground Rules for Online Usage
You should set ground rules about what types of websites are allowed, the timeframes when they can access the internet, and how to behave online. Make sure to have an open dialogue and explain why these rules are important for their safety.
Create “tech-free zones” that everyone in the family can enjoy at any time. This could be a specific room, area, or even an outdoor space where phones and other devices are off-limits.
You can also have regular “tech-free” days each week, such as Sunday or Friday night, when everybody unplugs from technology to spend quality time together as a family.
Write up a contract that everyone has to sign. This contract should have the terms of your agreement, which can include a list of activities that must be completed each day before any tech time is allowed (e.g., chores, reading books, riding their bike/outdoor activities).
It’s also important to note that as your kids get older, they may want more freedom with technology. Consider different strategies, such as setting up parental controls or having specific devices set aside for supervised online activities.
An exception could also be made for “hobby time.” For example, if you have a budding artist on your hands, consider giving them or letting them earn extra time on the drawing tablet.
Monitoring Technology Usage
Finally, your job doesn’t end with ground rules. You should also actively monitor the apps and websites they use to make sure that they’re adhering to the rules you’ve established.
It’s easier than ever to do this with parental control apps, which provide a comprehensive overview of what your kids are doing on the internet.
You can also install special tracking software that will alert you if your child is visiting dangerous websites or talking to strangers online. This way, you stay aware and can intervene if need be in order to keep them safe.
Educating your child on the benefits and pitfalls of technology and enforcing a balanced approach to screen time can help them be responsible internet users. Utilize some of these strategies to ensure your family navigates the digital world safely and responsibly.