A large part of today’s world has turned digital, and your kids face being swamped by technology. That means your care and responsibility toward your kids must go beyond the real world and extend to their digital world as well. In other words, you must monitor the influence of technology on your growing children.
There is a lot of negative press on the subject, to be sure. But technology can help kids learn better and ensure their proper development as well. The problem isn’t necessarily with technology but with its use. That’s why parents must make their kids aware of technology’s upsides and downsides.
It’s natural for kids to want the tech gadgets they see around them, and they’ll doubtless ask for their own mobile phone or tablet someday. Here’s where those positives and negatives come into play. When buying a cell phone for kids, you’ll want to ensure it offers the communication capabilities you want while still ensuring kids’ online safety.
These tips can help you make the right moves while introducing technology to kids:
1. Communicate Clearly About the Need for Self-Control
Many parents allow their kids unrestricted access to gizmos because then they have one less conflict to manage. That’s certainly not what defines responsible parenting.
Of course, you can use the latest parental control devices to track and limit your child’s online behavior. But nothing works more effectively than a straight face-to-face talk about using technology sensibly. When children learn about the dangers of misusing technology, they are more likely to use it in an intelligent way.
2. Be a Technology Role Model
Kids learn from adults. They watch you, learn from you, and also mimic you. Kids are impressionable, and they believe that what you are doing is right. So if you are constantly watching videos on your phone, they’ll believe that’s an OK thing to do.
That’s why you must lead the way and set an example of digitally responsible behavior. Put your phone down more than you pick it up. Treat it as a tool, not your constant companion. Ask your family members to also be role models for your kids while using technology. It can help them understand how to use technology appropriately.
3. Establish Tech-Free Time
Limiting screen time, not only for the kids but for the entire family, is important. It is a great way to send a message that controlled use of tech is necessary. When kids notice the screen time limiting exercise is not just for them, they’ll be more likely to stick to the limits you set.
Creating daily technology-free times and zones within your home can be a healthy habit. You can impose the rule at the dinner table or anytime the family gets together to eat or simply talk.
4. Choose the Right Games and Apps for Kids
There are all sorts of games and apps out there. If your kid has a digital device with easy access to the web, it’s a risky situation. They are just a couple of clicks away from accessing content not suitable for their age. Make sure you choose games and apps that are age-appropriate with content intended specifically for kids.
The International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) ratings can help you make informed decisions. Leading content providers such as Nintendo, Google, Microsoft, and other leading tech companies use these ratings to produce age-specific content. The age recommendations in a few app stores may not be accurate, though, so don’t rely on ratings alone. The best approach is to vet the content of an app or game yourself before letting your child access it.
5. Introduce Kids to the Creative Side of Technology
Technology can turn your kids into couch potatoes or it can offer an endless stream of creative opportunities. How well tech can trigger your kids’ creative juices will depend on the apps you choose.
Many apps merge the real world and the digital world and deliver a tactile learning experience to kids. They can use their imagination and creativity to build things, develop designs, and make their fantasies come true.
Depending on what your children love to do the most, browse the app stores for kid-specific games and platforms that foster those interests. Seek out content that can nurture the creativity and intelligence of your kids.
6. Make Them Aware of the Need to Protect Privacy
When you discuss the risks of technology with your kids, make sure to address safety and privacy. Impress upon them the fact that what goes online remains there forever. Help them identify the risks of sharing personal and sensitive information.
It may not be possible for you to track every app and game your kid accesses. That’s why it’s crucial to make them aware of the risks of sharing private information with strangers online. Make a list of things they shouldn’t share (home address, full name, current location, passwords, etc.) online with strangers. It’s important to be specific, as kids won’t automatically see a red flag when they face such a situation.
7. Encourage Them to Take Digital Courses
This one is for your older kids. They are already into technology and have a fair idea of the dos and don’ts. It is not a good idea to lecture them on tech’s pros and cons. Simply channel their energy into something they love to do with technology. Their interests can be used for productive purposes.
From animation to coding, there are hundreds of free online courses and classes available. You just have to spend some time finding them. Apple and Microsoft even have fun computer-based workshops in their stores that are specifically designed for kids of various age groups.
When it comes to connecting kids and technology, there are no absolute right and wrong answers. It’s still a grey area with lots of research going on. Nevertheless, experts believe that introducing technology to kids at the right age is vital. By making them aware of the risks, you can prepare them to become more responsible users of tech.