My son has been using an iPad since he was 2-and-a-half years old. Like many toddlers, he was swiping away at apps, watching his favorite shows and learning to navigate the device before he was potty trained. Both my husband and I didn’t mind him using the device and becoming familiar with it, but the one thing we were not going to allow was for the device to consume him.
Because we believe children need to be children and explore the world they live in. And we figured there are more productive things he can be doing than having his face glued to a screen.
He is now 5 years old and has no idea what Angry Birds or Minecraft is. He prefers to go outside and ride his bike than stay indoors and watch TV or play on the tablet.
And we couldn’t be happier.
Technology, although an amazing tool, does not and will never, in my opinion, provide children with the things they need most to be able to connect and have the ability to handle what life throws at them. Children should be able to make eye contact, hold full-length conversations, and express themselves without having a device in their hands.
For both my husband and I, it was important to establish tech rules with our son and help him have a better understanding of the devices he is growing up with.
Here are some tech guidelines we have implemented in our home over the years that have proven beneficial to his understanding and use of technology:
1. Be a role model
We have always made it a point to exhibit good tech behavior with our son. We don’t use our phones during meals, and do not text and drive. And although I discussed in a previous post that I was overly connected, checking my phone while cooking dinner, while making a bottle for my younger son, and (especially) while doing laundry, I used my aha moment to discuss with him why always being connected can take you away from the important things.
2. Be in the know
Don’t let your kids show you how to use technology. Learn the how the tool actually works, then turn around and teach your kids how to properly use it. Knowledge equals power and the more you have on your side, the better your kids will be, as you can better educate them to make smart decisions about what they do online.
3. Create “no tech” habits
In our household, we have always implemented a no tablet during meals, family time, and outside of the home rule. Both my husband and I believe taking part in family activities is important to create memories that will stay with them and serve as learning points throughout their lives. Plus, we feel the entire purpose of going out as a family or meeting up with friends is to interact and converse with one another, not have your face glued to a screen.
4. Use parental controls
Raising digital kids to me means always setting parental controls. Although kids are often able to use the Internet without running into any issues, all it takes is one wrong click and they can end up in a world filled with inappropriate content and material.
5. Talk about risks
Along with using parental controls and showing kids some tech etiquette, it’s crucial to have honest conversations about cyber-bullying and the risks involved in sharing personal information online.
6. Have access to their passwords
If you’d like, you can create a digital contract with your child and have this be one of the many non-negotiable’s on your list. If they have nothing to hide, they will not mind giving you an all-access pass to their cyber-world.
Be genuinely interested in what you kids are into. Engage and talk to your kids about what they are doing or watching online.