Smartphone Use or Abuse? 5 Tips To Protect Your Kids
As Millennials, technology grew with us. We learned along the way. I think the adjustments were easier, because we had to invent new guidelines for our ever more connected world. But for today’s little ones, it’s almost as if the smartphone and iPad are implanted in their head. Technology and kids seem inseparable. Sometimes I wonder if they could survive without it, because they seem lost if it’s not in their hands.
While it might be nice to seldom hear “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do,” it’s not so good when they’re absorbed for countless hours in mindless games and distractions. And there are plenty of studies that show the effects of too much screen time. I’m sure it’s not all bad, and there are some amazing new educational apps for kids. When combined with purely educational use, such as homework assignments, these can be used to incentivize a healthy balance of online usage. As a parent, staying conscious and aware of our children is always important, and that’s probably the best path. Here are five tips to help with that.
Lead by Example
I never agreed with the adage “do as I say and not as I do.” Children learn by observation. In one way or another, they will attempt if not adopt the behavior they see. So first and foremost, let them know that any efforts to throttle the use of electronics is for the good of everyone, and everyone will play by the rules.
Certainly the rules will be different for adults and teens from younger ones. But children are perfectly capable of understanding when time is taken to explain. And some rules, such as no electronics at the dinner table, should apply to everyone.
Set Usage Boundaries
Younger children, especially, are less cognizant of how much time they are actually engaged with their smartphone or Ipad. So it’s important to set times during which the devices are off limits completely, such as when they’re supposed to be fast asleep.
Become familiar with parental controls built into many devices. In some cases, they can be used to control not only what’s being accessed, but how much time is spent on it. Or install apps that allow you to do that.
We all know how surprisingly smart kids can be. So just because you set rules and usage controls, don’t assume that they’re going to be perpetually effective. By accident or their own initiative, they can and will find ways to work around your best efforts to limit usage.
This can be simple observation, or you can take it to high-tech levels. It’s possible to set up your home network such that all activity is automatically monitored according to login. But even that, with the ability to tether for data, may not work for the tech-savvy child. So staying aware is always going to be a high priority.
No, not the app. Good old-fashioned face to face family interactions. Instead of a quiet room with everyone glued to their individual screen, turn them all off and engage. Remember when you were a kid and you enjoyed playing card or board games with your parents? Newsflash: the kids still do.
And the games don’t have to be at home. There are still plenty of family-oriented activities that kids of all ages enjoy. Miniature Golf. Bowling (they have kids-weight balls now). Or even a trip to the local park. Sometimes, we forget how simple life can be.
Give and Take
We’re not going to alter the course of our connected world. What’s behind those screens will be an important part of all of our lives forever. What we can do is accept that there are things online that are much more than mindless entertainment. So some bartering can be appropriate, too. You can be sure they’ll be motivated to do an hour on more educational sites in exchange for an hour of their favorite game.
While the presence of smartphones and notebooks has added a new facet to the family dynamic, it’s really just an extension of the traditional responsibilities for parents. It’s what parents have always done. Teaching our kids about balance and accountability. And it can be a win-win for everyone.
Family Game Matthew Hurst
Kids and Technology Jim Bauer
Happy Girl Rachel