Our tips for low-tech parents raising high-tech kids in the digital era.
Tech Through the Ages
Tempted to hand your iPad to your toddler when you need a substitute babysitter? Don’t. Some say swiping and clicking helps little ones with fine motor skills, but others worry about the obesity risks linked to a sedentary lifestyle. According to experts from the Canadian Paediatric Society, kids under two should have no screen time at all; those between the ages of two and five should get no more than one hour daily.
Technology is becoming increasingly integrated into the classroom. Globally, most kids get their first cellphone at 10. In South Africa, the average age for first use of the internet is 11. Make sure you, monitor the content they’re consuming and ensure they do not overdo it, say Cape Town child psychologists Johan van Rooyen and Garth Newman. ‘Kids who spend too much time behind a computer show clear deficits in social abilities – their emotional intelligence is thus lowered.’
Adolescents and teens
Discuss the dangers of cyberbullying, the importance of safeguarding their eputations online and the legal results of sharing sexual content. ‘Be vigilant and notice any changes in your teen’s behaviour, and be aware of who they are talking to,’ say Johan and Garth.
The most important thing you can do to keep your kids smart and safe online is to have regular, open chats about their digital experiences. According to Johan and Garth: ‘If children feel safe enough to talk about their digital interactions, the risks are greatly reduced and the parents will be able to respond to their child’s emotional needs.’
Be part of your kids’ social networks so you can keep an eye on what they are doing and who they’re connecting with.
Be a media mentor
Kids of parents who regularly engage with them about safe media use are less likely to chat to strangers, access porn or pretend to be someone else online. Be involved – and model appropriate behaviour. A study by online-security firm AVG Technologies shows children often feel that they need to compete with digital devices for their parents’ attention, so quit the double standards.
A child may ace physical feats in their favourite computer game, but fail on the sports field. Match screen time with outdoor playtime to ensure balance. Teach kids what kind of communication can happen via text message (chatting) and what can’t (apologies, breaking up).
Learn, play, grow
Watch, and then discuss YouTube clips together, let your child teach you how to play Minecraft, and encourage teens to create, not just consume, media.
Make their minds matter
Digital shortcuts and multitasking don’t encourage the focus needed for critical thinking and problem-solving skills to develop. Help your kids train their brains.
Have dedicated media-free zones and times at home. LCDs emit a blue light that affects sleep, so turn them off well before bed. Keep track of your children’s screen time.
[Image by Marta-Wave via Pexels]