Technology has changed our daily lives and your behavior with these devices influences your children and those closest to you. Engaging your children in real life activities and limiting the use of devices needs to start when they’re toddlers!
A large concern for many parents is whether or not to limit screen time on their child’s phone and manage their phone usage as well as setting parental controls on their phones. Naturally, your infant will begin to take an interest in the devices you use. Even before they can begin to speak, the noise and lights emitted from these devices can be a distraction. Be respectful and aware of your child’s surroundings. You create the environment that they are taking in and learning about everyday. Supervision is key to starting them off. As your child’s role model, you should be aware of how much time you are actually spending on your smart phone, iPad, computer, watching TV, etc. You need to set limits yourself before you enforce rules on your family. If your work depends on using these devices at home, discuss with your partner to take shifts and you can excuse yourself to an office when checking emails so it doesn’t become a constant interruption or distraction while you have real life face time as a family.
When your child is using a device, be engaged with them. Navigate through it by their side. Co-viewing while they are young is important. Showing them engaging, informative and the right type of content is just as educational as participating in other learning activities. Be cautious of your child getting sucked into the screen, if you aren’t actively participating in what they are doing i.e.: you let them play a game or watch something recreational, you need to put time limits just as you would on playtime. Quickly switch to a new activity like a sing along in the car, or a short walk outside or complete a chore together. If you experience a temper tantrum or whining when device time is up, you need to use your discipline skills just like you would in any other scenario. Consistency is your friend.
Try setting up two folders of apps for your children, one can be entertainment and the other educational. Start them on the educational activities first like helping them with their vocabulary or math skills. Then, reward them later with entertaining apps like a fun game or cartoon. Geekswithjuniors.com has a good list to start your child with fun learning apps. Some devices have built in control like Mac OS X, but there are additional parental control options that can help you feel more secure with leaving your children alone with devices. Make sure to set web, cable and Apple TV restrictions.
Just remember technology is initially created to make our lives easier not more difficult so use your best judgment as with anything else! To help parents determine healthy media guidelines for their children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has developed the online Family Media Use Plan. It develops a customized media use plan for your family, to help you and kids determine how your family will use media in your home.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. Please consult your child’s healthcare provider directly for medical advice, diagnoses, and treatments. If you have specific questions or concerns about the health or development of your child, consult your child’s physician.