By Guest Blogger: Michelle Laurey
We’re living in a world where technology is becoming increasingly crucial. Every day, we interact with screens to learn, communicate, and grow. It makes sense that your children would be frequently exposed to those devices too.
With that said, everything can be put to good or bad use. Technology is no different. While smartphones, tablets, and computers can help your little ones learn more about the world, too much screen time can be an addictive experience.
As parents, we need to find and implement the right strategy for our children’s screen experiences. We can hardly avoid it, but we can adjust it.
We want to make sure that our kids are getting the right kind of exposure to technology, with meaningful moments that get the most out of their relationship with the digital world.
So, how to get started?
Figure Out How Much Screen Time Your Kids Need
It’s hard to cultivate meaningful moments with screens when you’re kids are always glued to either a television screen or their smartphone.
However, it can be useful to implement limits that highlight how much time a child should get on each device each day.
Just remember to keep context in mind.
For instance, they might get as much time as they need on a tablet or computer when they’re doing their homework. After all, we don’t want to rush our children through their studies.
Schools today are implementing technology in every aspect of kids’ lives, so don’t assume they don’t get a fair share of screen time there as well. If you homeschool them, you can have more control over technology exposure.
Regardless of that, you might allow just a couple of hours each day using screens for gaming, YouTube videos, and other forms of entertainment. It’s ok to vent out and use technology for entertainment, but it’s also important to balance things out.
The more you can reduce your child’s exposure to screens when they don’t really need them, the more they’ll make their moments with technology count.
Why do I emphasize meaningful screen time?
There were occasions when I was in between jobs, with no kids, and I had plenty of time at my hands. I spent a good portion of it online, but I did not maximize it. Instead of learning Spanish on Duolingo, or watching my favorite TV shows—I could have polished my professional skills.
Everything I have done later, I could have achieved years ago. Now, when I think about it, I realize I could have used technology much better. And I could have taken all the incredible opportunities it offers for personal or professional growth.
Now I want to mentor my kids and help them use their screen time smarter.
Plan Online Moments Together
Rather than just leaving your children to discover new things on their devices on their own, set aside some time each week where you sit down and do something together. You could have an hour at the end of each week, where you hang out and watch some educational videos online.
You can make commenting documentaries and reflecting on them a habit by asking your kids: “so, what did you learn from this?” or “How did you like this video?”
I’m not saying you can force your kids to love watching educational materials, but you can lead by example.
My husband does it all the time.
He plays Youtube on TV, and his selection varies from electric vehicles news, technology advancements, mega factories, space discoveries, and so on. Our older son often comes and joins him, especially when robots are in question. They talk about it, discuss the latest findings, and enjoy the time spent together.
I, on the other hand, prefer watching less-technical things. I enjoy practical psychology practitioners like Tony Robbins, stand up comedy videos, motivational speakers, etc.
Kids are copy-cats. They learn so much from us and model us consciously and unconsciously. If you show them how you appreciate knowledge and love to learn new things as an adult, you are more likely to instill the thirst for knowledge in them.
Kids are curious beings, and you can definitely direct that desire for knowledge in areas they show interest in.
If your children are old enough, you could learn about what’s going on in the world with child-friendly articles written for kids and teens by publications like CNN.
Why not leverage the internet and safe search modes to answer questions that your kids have and learn new things together? You can even try a new educational game as a team.
This combined experience will give you a critical bonding opportunity with your child while also giving you an insight into what your child wants to do when they’re online.
The internet can be a dangerous place, after all.
Research the Right Content
Creating meaningful moments of screen time with your children isn’t just about controlling how often they use the computer or their phone when they’re older.
What kind of shows are your kids exposed to each day?
There are plenty of television apps that pre-select channels suitable for your children, so you know that they’re always watching the right content. That’s especially important for younger children.
If your kid prefers Netflix instead of a traditional television service, you can set up parental controls that dictate what kind of shows and movies they can watch. You can even list recommended shows for your kids that focus on specific lessons that they need to learn.
When you find the time to watch TV with your little one, you have even more of an opportunity to introduce them to educational content.
For older kids, documentaries are an excellent way to expand their knowledge of history and geography, amongst other things. Once you’ve watched a show together, you can discuss what you’ve both learned—the way we do.
Find the Right Games
More often than not, your children will want to use their devices for play—rather than learning. However, as a parent, you can help them do both things at once.
There are plenty of games online or on the app store today that can help your kids have fun while teaching them things too.
If you have no idea where to start from, ask your kids. But be sure to ask the right questions.
“What would you like to learn?” will give you better insights than asking “What games do you want to play?”
Depending on the age of your child, you can start with simple games that teach things like shape and number recognition. As they grow, you can introduce them to logic puzzles, spelling games, and other titles that ask them to put their reasoning and problem-solving skills to the test.
A few learning games before bedtime can keep your kids entertained and happy, giving you the benefit of knowing that they’re doing something valuable with their screen time.
Finally, the last thing you want is for your kids to spend all their time mindlessly scrolling on tablets and smartphones.
This can lead to withdrawal and a sense of being almost addicted to technology. Kids will experience the same downsides as we do, from having lower self-esteem to building a bad habit.
Every time your child is active on a device, they should have a purpose in mind or a goal that they want to achieve.
Fortunately, you can set out restrictions that help with this. For instance, transforming your iPad into a child-friendly device could ensure that kids only access the most educational and informative apps on your device.
Also, you’ll prevent them from accessing inappropriate content or buying things accidentally. If you are sharing devices, exploring kids’ mode is a must.
Letting kids access only useful content and games is a lot better than allowing them to browse social media or check the internet.
Encourage your child to make the most of their screen time, rather than just wasting their moments with scrolling.
Teens often have their own phones, and that means they have more freedom. In that case, use communication instead of technical restrictions. Explain the pros and cons of social media, not to ignite fear, but to present the facts.
Tell them what are the downsides of continually checking others’ lives—be it on Tik Tok, Snapchat, or any new platform that emerges.
Leveraging the Benefits of Screen Time
Technology is a powerful tool in today’s digital landscape. However, like anything else in a child’s life, it needs to be used carefully.
As parents, it’s up to us to make sure that we’re empowering our kids with access to the right digital moments, without allowing them to fall too deeply into bad habits.
We can lead by example, we can communicate, and we can mentor them. The point is—we need to be present.
I hope my tips above will help you to begin seeing your kids’ time in another light, so you can better protect and support your child as they grow more accustomed to their screens.
About the Author:
Michelle Laurey is a telecommuting wordsmith who especially enjoys writing on a cloudy day. Always interested in ways that can help individuals reach their full potential in life, she enjoys producing stories on productivity, lifestyle, and health. Outside her keyboard, she enjoys visiting cozy coffee shops and taking long urban strolls. Reach out to her on Twitter.