In case you haven’t heard, it’s the technology age and everywhere you turn there is an eight-year-old with a smart-phone or a toddler with a tablet. And while I can’t imagine a day without my phone or laptop, becoming a parent makes you suddenly aware of your actions and behaviors. While it is important to embrace the era we live in, when does technology become a crutch? When is too much TOO much?
While some parents believe taking technology out of your child’s life COMPLETELY is the way to go, I believe in honoring and embracing our technological era in moderation and finding a happy medium between the two. #justmyopinion
What Do the Experts Say About Children and Technology?
I was perusing the internet when I came across this article from tech news world:
“In the past, we only had to be concerned about too much TV exposure. Now we have video games, computers, and cell phones. It is overwhelming for young children and creates patterns of behaviors similar to addiction patterns,” said Mali Mann, M.D., adjunct clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University’s School of Medicine.
“Their brains get used to too much auditory and visual stimulation — and in the absence of these stimulations, they do not know what to do with themselves,” she told TechNewsWorld. “They get anxious, restless, bored and aggressive.”
I have been guilty of this myself. It is easy to pull out your phone in a restaurant and give it to your restless toddler when the food is taking longer than normal – or when you are at a family function and you are catching up with loved ones you haven’t seen for a while. But handing your “little” a phone or tablet every time you need some alone or grown-up time may be detrimental to your child’s development… especially if you are doing it too much!
Some sources say any child under the age of two should have zero screen time, including having the television on for background noise. And while I do agree with this to a certain extent, let’s not forget how technology is actually helping our child’s cognitive development.
There are many educational apps which have helped children grasp math, English, other languages, colors, morals and much more. I used to sit with my daughter and watch “Your baby can read” shows which helped her learn the alphabet before she could properly say each letter and the sounds associated with it.
Many schools are even integrating technology within lesson plans. At the start of her 3rd-grade year, my daughter came home with her own chrome book with which she could do homework with. While her school does integrate technology into their lesson plans, much of the time allotted during school sessions is allocated to social, physical and mental stimuli without technology. I think this is healthy – it is hard to make friends and learn how to socialize if there is a screen in front of your child all the time.
The other thing I really like about Mia’s school is they encourage parents to limit the amount of time with technology outside of school. The school went so far as to send home a letter for parents asking to limit their children’s screen-time to only one or two hours a day while ensuring children rest 10 to 12 hours a night. As a parent, I really appreciate this – in my opinion, it promotes finding a healthy school-family balance while embracing our information age. So how DO we find a happy medium on a day-to-day basis OUTSIDE of school?
Finding a Happy Medium with Children and Technology
Again, I was guilty of handing my child a phone while waiting for dinner so she could practice her ABC’s while not causing a scene at a restaurant. One rule has always stuck though- once food is on the table, the phones and tablets are OFF the table (this goes for adults too)! Here are some tips to help parents find this happy medium.
- Monkey-see-monkey-do. As a parent, you must be able to disconnect yourself and spend some time AWAY from the television, laptop, tablet and phone. Whatever you do your children will mimic your behavior. If you set aside time to spend with family, friends and loved ones daily, your children will do the same.
- Make rough-and-tumble play an important daily activity. Children learn through play and it is crucial for their development. It helps them develop fine motor skills, problem-solving skills all while burning some of that excess energy children tend to have. If they are stuck on a screen all day, they don’t get the chance to hone these skills. My daughter tends to get restless around bedtime if she hasn’t gone outside to play, or had some kind of rambunctious activity to burn off the jitters.
- Use parental controls. If your child is going to be on the internet, a smartphone or tablet, make sure they are monitored. I recently learned there are browsers such as Zoodles, Kido’z, and Tweens Browser which has parental controls built-in for internet-savvy kids. And there is tons of other software you can install which keep your child safe from websites that are pornographic or racist in nature.
- All day in front of a screen can lead to obesity, poor concentration, and limited physical activity. A 2014 study by UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center suggests that when screen time limits face-to-face interaction, childrens’ social skills may be negatively affected, and this may blind them from grasping the emotions of other people, learning how to make and keep friends and in general, learning how to BE with others altogether.
- Limit activity to two hours of screen time per day for children – this includes television, video games and apps on smartphones and tablets. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) do not recommend screen time for kids younger than two.
All-in-all, I am a firm believer in embracing our era in moderation. Our children have opportunities and technology we as parents did not have when we were growing up. With that in mind, as a parent you get to choose for yourself how to raise your children. Are you someone who insists on absolutely no technology for your child, or are you someone who is fine with your child spending all day on video games? There is no right or wrong, there are just different parenting styles.
And let’s be real for a minute, as parents we are CONSTANTLY learning how to “parent.” We don’t have it all figured out – it’s a trial-and-error process we are all navigating. So don’t beat yourself up if you are doing your best but your tactics aren’t working – just switch up your approach and course-correct without invalidating yourself (your children will see you don’t beat yourself up after making a mistake and they will mimic this behavior).
Wishing you all the best!