Technology, children and parents: how to make it work
As our children are born into this digital frenzied world, there comes many questions to us older generations about the use of technology, its benefits and frustrations.
My son’s use…
My nine-year-old son is amongst this new generation now known as digital natives. He was born four years after Facebook was created and in the year the Apple App Store was invented and consumers were now given easy access to thousands of software applications.
An avid user of technology since the age of four, my son owns an iPad, iPod, PlayStation and uses my computer to game and watch YouTube. In my eyes, my son has an addiction…an obsession to be on a device…constantly. It drives us nuts! It’s like he has forgotten how to get outside in the mud, ride bikes or climb trees. The idea of finding something else to do when he is not allowed on technology is like torture and is just ‘too difficult’ for him despite the extensive range of toys in his room and activities in the backyard.
…And my part
But it is not all his fault. It is very much mine as well. These addictions, obsessions and now what I consider ’bad habits’ have developed because I allowed it to happen. I never had rules in place for the time spent on technology each day. Working full time and time-poor, it was an easy option for me to allow my son to stare aimlessly at his device after we got home from work and school so I could cook dinner, put on a load of washing and organise my work for the following day. My son was occupied and I was getting through the evening chores without interruptions.
Lunch with friends who don’t have kids? Sure thing, my son can play on his iPad whilst I sit and socialise. Long car trips? Sure thing, bring that device because ‘I Spy’ and ‘Car Cricket’ is a thing of the ancient world, unheard of and not cool these days. And finally my partner and I don’t always set the best examples when it comes to using technology less. We have our phones glued to our sides and would spend hours on them a day, longer even, if we didn’t have to adult!
It took four years to notice these issues before I began to intervene, and although it is still challenging to get my son outdoors and playing with toys that don’t require a screen, it has gotten a lot better.
For the past twelve months we have devised the following rules around technology:
- Technology can be used one hour per school day maximum (morning or night).
- Weekends are one hour at one given time providing there has been at least one hour playing something else.
- Devices must be used in the living room, not the bedroom.
We cannot remove technology from our children lives as we have moved into this new world. There is no going backwards now. We must evolve too, providing there are boundaries.
Here is some advice from the founder of “Raising Digital Natives” Devorah Heitner from her book ‘Screenwise – Helping Kids Thrive and Survive in the Digital World’ that I found helpful:
- Good habits must be started as soon as your children begin using technology to set them up as successful digital users of the future.
- Ask yourself is it okay to check your Facebook or play Candy Crush whilst you are watching your son or daughter at swimming lessons or at the park.
- Ask yourself if your children see you constantly looking at your phone.
- Discuss with your partner about leaving digital footprints behind. Your children’s photos are likely on your Facebook and Instagram from the moment they are born. When do you begin to ask your child if it is okay to post their photo online?
- Share stories and get advice from other parents about what works and what doesn’t.
- Encourage your children to play outside and find activities away from the screen to entertain them.
The most important advice I got from this book was that we will likely never know everything about technology and that is okay. We must mentor our young ones through this tech-driven world so they can learn to make appropriate choices around the time spent on devices, the applications they use and how they use them.
I would love to hear the challenges and advice others have out there too, join in the conversation!
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