We are living in the digital age, and kids have access to an array of different internet-enabled devices. Such devices can enhance a child’s safety, education, and comfort, and parents are often willing to purchase tech gadgets for their children as long as they can use them safely and effectively.
However, we cannot ignore the fact that kids often don’t possess the discipline to use their devices as expected and will need help along the way. To ensure that children acquire healthy habits in the use of digital devices, it’s up to the parents to teach them the skills.
So, how can parents guide their children towards the healthy use of digital devices?
1. Set device guidelines
Although your kid may feel that they have full ownership of their devices, they must know you still have a say over its use. Children need to know that they are being monitored when using their devices.
Parents that keep a tab on the websites, software, applications, platforms, and generally what their kids are doing online increase their chances of keeping them safe. Also, go beyond their online interactions and interact with their friends offline.
2. Enjoy screen time with your children
Children often get handed a device and they quickly settle in a corner watching their favorite videos or games. However, it is better when parents get involved and use the device together with their children.
Kids enjoy spending time with their parents doing something they love. If they are playing a video game, get interested and learn as much as you can about it. When watching a show, sit down with them and give your perspective. The interaction goes a long way in improving the bond between you and your children.
3. Encourage unplugged playtime
Devices can capture the minds of children, making them physically inactive for hours, especially if unmonitored. Set reasonable limits for device use and encourage offline playtime for kids.
Playtime is known to stimulate creativity and gives your children a chance to rest their minds. Physical activity is also beneficial for a child’s body and should be encouraged daily especially for small children.
If unable to go to outside, set time apart, and engage in indoor activities, such as board games, crafts, or even learning how to play a musical instrument – keyboards, ukeleles, and harmonicas are great and affordable options.
4. Become a good example
Parents are a child’s first role model, and their actions hold far more weight than their words. If you want your children to use their devices responsibly, you need to do the same.
Media use should be balanced with offline activities so that they can do the same when requested. Children appreciate parents that keep their word and will enjoy offline interaction more without even thinking about going back to their devices.
If you live with extended family, encourage them to be good role models as well.
5. Encourage face-to-face communication
The development of language skills in children can be delayed because of the lack of conversations with other humans. The reason for delayed development may be too much screen time, which eliminates opportunities for back-and-forth talk.
If your child is showing signs of delayed speech consider reducing the use of devices and focus on giving them as much verbal “talk time” as possible. Try eliminating the use of devices for a set time until you see some improvement.
6. Restrict the use of devices for very small children
The debate on the best age to introduce children to devices rages on, with many parents getting confused about the best time to start. Although the decision ultimately lies with the parents, experts advise keeping kids away from devices in the early part of their life.
Limiting screen time for preschool children should be restricted to an hour or less and the content should be high-quality and educational. Devices such as a kids smartwatch should be given to older kids that understand their use and will not be easily distracted by them.
Spending time as a family devoid of devices ought to be protected at all costs.
7. Create device-free areas
Spending time as a family devoid of devices ought to be protected at all costs. Parents can make certain parts of the home device-free so that the family can focus on each other.
Communicate the same to children so that they are aware of what is expected of them. Some of the places that can be device-free include children’s bedrooms, dining rooms, and important social gatherings.
When you need to charge devices, do it in a separate room so that the children can sleep better and wake up refreshed the next day.
8. Avoid making devices an emotional crutch
Handing your child a device will keep them calm when you want some peace in the house. However, they should not be depended upon to calm your kids down when they are having a tantrum or crying for no reason.
If your child can only calm down when they have a device in their hands, then there is a need for an alternative solution to their behavior. Teach your children to manage boredom by engaging them in other activities.
Talking them through their emotions or solving the problem that causes them discomfort is a better way of dealing with kids than pacifying them with devices.
9. Warn children about online dangers
Allowing your child to use a device opens them to the dangers posed by internet predators. It is therefore important to educate your children about the need to remain private online.
Teach them about the need to adjust their privacy settings so that they are less prone to being hacked or bullied online. Warn them about predators and sex offenders that reach out to children in chatrooms, social media, online games, and sending inappropriate e-mails.
Where possible, use parental control applications to restrict some of the information your kids can access when online.
10. Prepare a media plan
Every parenting style is based on values that are to be passed on to kids so that they grow up into responsible adults. Proper use of devices is a skill every child needs, and to ensure they develop it, parents need to have a plan.
A media plan is a great way to make sure kids use their devices appropriately and they don’t miss out on other interactions in life. Some of these interactions include family time, exercise, and outdoor play among others.
Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the media plan until you find what works for your family.
11. Be prepared for mistakes
Even with sufficient information on the proper use of devices and online dangers, kids will still make mistakes. Try to address the situation with as much empathy as possible with an aim to reach rather than shame.
Most children will do their best to avoid the same mistakes, but if they repeat it over and over again, you may need to give them a consequence for their actions.
Additionally, you need to carefully observe their actions while going forward to confirm if they have indeed changed or you need to put more restrictions on the use of devices.
Overall, kids won't be separated from their devices, meaning that parents will have to offer a lot of guidance on their use. The benefits of kids’ devices far outweigh their drawbacks, especially when used with moderation, making them worth investing in.