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Navigating Your Child’s Tech Use

Two Babies playing with an iPad

We have entered a new and exciting age in which technology has opened new doors for communication, exploration, and entertainment! With all these advancements come normal concerns for parents with regards to how to raise responsible digital citizens. We want our children to be tech savvy but at the same time to not lose touch with all of the other avenues they can explore for fun! This balance can feel especially difficult as our toddlers learn to navigate our smartphones faster than ever and our school children are diving into Fortnite and social media. We’ve collected some of our best advice for navigating parenting in the digital age here.

What the experts say about children and tech use

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a set of guidelines in 2016 that outline useful parameters based on age groups. However, every child’s tech use is going to look different, and this balance is something that you can feel out as a family. What we took away from the guidelines is the need for high quality programs (such as Sesame Street or educational apps) that can encourage cognitive, literacy, and social growth. Additionally, it’s important that if you are using tech frequently in the home that you are interacting with your children at the same time. For example, talking about what you see on the TV, how the movie makes your child feel, or asking questions about what they think is going to happen next in the video. 

How to tell if your child is overusing tech

Psychologist, Jon Lasser, who co-wrote the book “Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper Connected World” outlines some warning signs for when your children are overusing tech. Some of these signs include complaining about being bored or unhappy when they don’t have access to tech, unsoothable tantrums when you set screen limits, or if the tech or screen time interferes with sleep, school, or face-to-face interactions. 

How to set tech boundaries

As we’ve said, there are no hard and fast rules for setting boundaries around technology use! Your family boundaries will likely be an evolving process and should be tailored to each child depending on their age, type of tech use, and general maturity. It’s also important to consider your children’s point-of-view on these issues. Understanding why they enjoy or value tech in their lives can help you to better plan boundaries. 

After you’ve talked with your children to better understand their tech use, we suggest checking out the AAP tool to create a “Family Media Plan.” This tool can help you tailor each child’s boundaries and consider important aspects of a healthy balance, including sleep and exercise. 

Example Tech Boundaries

Some families start setting boundaries by using tech-tools, such as turning off autoplay on Netflix to be able to better monitor how many shows your children are watching. School-age kids work well with clear boundaries such as “one episode after your homework is done,” and turning off autoplay helps to enforce these rules! Additionally, we loved this idea of sorting apps with your child on their tablet into Brain Food and Junk Food categories. For example, “Angry Birds” is junk food but “Stack the States” is brain food. That way you can set appropriate limits for each type of app, while being mindful of your child’s educational growth. A different tech boundary we like involves setting up tech free zones in your home. Perhaps your dining room or kitchen can be designated rooms where you don’t bring tech in and can enjoy your family time device free. 

What to keep in mind about being a tech role model

Sometimes evaluating family tech use starts with the parents. The draw of technology certainly extends past childhood, but as we consider the environments we want to raise our children in, we might want to consider limiting our own TV time or scrolling through our Twitter feeds during family time. Leading by example and forgoing our own smart devices can help ease our children into new family guidelines around tech. For example, if the new rule is for the kids to charge their smartphones outside their bedrooms, you might want to join in as well! 

How to keep your children busy without tech

To help ease the transition off of tech, it’s useful to plan alternative activities based on the experiences your child might be getting from using tech. For example, if your child loves playing FIFA video games, you might try playing soccer. We realize the topics are not always so easily linked—sometimes tech use can just be about having something easy and stimulating to do. However, having art supplies, books or music readily available are great alternatives! If all else fails, it might just be that your kiddo is interested in a nice chat about their day! 

We love to know how your family comes together for high-tech or low-tech activities! So make sure to tag SmartSitting in your Facebook and Instagram posts for us to view and share your posts on our channels. Want more information about current trends for families? Make sure you sign up for our newsletter for all the latest info coming from our team!

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