No matter how parents try to restrict gadget use, many admit it may be impractical to completely cut off technology from your children’s lives. Nowadays, kids are “digital natives”—children who are growing up in a time when computers, tablets, and smartphones exist in the mainstream.
But this doesn’t mean you should hand over the digital reins to your children. Parents, here are a few guidelines to help your kids become responsible users of technology:
Limit gadget use.
Gadgets can be a great learning tool for children, but allowing them unrestricted screen time means fewer opportunities for social interaction and active play. Being screen-dependent can also affect toddlers’ speech development and sleeping patterns. Another negative effect of too much gadget use: unhealthy weight gain.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children below 18 months avoid digital media use, except for video calls. For older kids, parents should monitor and supervise them closely. Children 18 to 24 months old should not be allowed to use gadgets by themselves. For children aged 2 to 5, their use should be limited to an hour a day. And don’t forget to restrict screen time at night, too, particularly before their bedtime.
Make the dinner table a no-gadget zone.
Banning smartphones, tablets, and other devices from the dinner table is a good way to foster quality time and improve communication in your family. This will help younger kids develop their language skills since they learn patterns of speech and grammar from their parents. And because they’re not relying on their gadgets too much, your kids are also improving their self-regulation skills when it comes to any impulsive behavior.
Monitor online activity.
Even the most responsible and trustworthy child still needs to be supervised online. Check the apps, games, and other content they want to download by testing them out yourself. Protect your kids from undesirable content by bookmarking their favorite websites. Letting them surf the Web without restrictions can expose them to online dangers. Talk to them openly about Internet safety and remind them not to share private information with strangers and on public pages.
When it comes to social media, make sure your kids follow the age restriction imposed by most online platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Skype have an age restriction of 13 years and older. This is in place to protect privacy and ensure the safety of young children.
Another thing you need to watch out for is internet gaming addiction. A teen was diagnosed with this condition by the UK's National Health Service—the first child it has diagnosed with internet addiction. This 15-year-old boy has not attended school for a year and even fears leaving his house. His mother also reveals that he has been addicted since he was 12. Learn from this cautionary tale, and encourage your kids to engage in gadget-free creative play.
Set up the first line of defense.
Children can be sneaky and may find ways to access gadgets when you’re not around. To give you peace of mind, choose an Internet provider that will safeguard your family from online threats. Globe At Home's Secure WiFi Bundle protects your family by blocking unwanted content and inappropriate websites. It has a built-in anti-virus feature in case your kids stumble onto questionable pages and links. It also allows you to monitor your kids' online activities, including the websites they've visited.