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The Role of Technology in Parenting

Guest blogger Amy Williams

Do you recall the coolest gadget from the year 2000?

If I recall, DVDs were one of the newest technologies on the market. Granted, we still had our trusty VCR, could still buy Spice Girls CDs, had to use slow dial-up Internet, and owned only one cell phone. Looking back has really shown us how much technology has changed over the years.

Not too long ago, we were able to limit a child’s exposure technology to just a few cartoons on Saturday morning, or make a conscious choice of when to give your child a quarter to play an arcade game. Today, devices have invaded our lives creating an imbalance of digital screens and face to face interactions.

The technology revolution has placed parents in a dicey situation as they struggle to find a healthy balance while raising digital natives. We need to negotiate a healthy relationship with our devices, because all the data sharing and downloading of apps has the potential to impact a young child’s development. Parents can choose if these experiences will be good or bad for our children.

little girl watching television - cartoons for kids

Technology’s Place In The Family

It is estimated that children spend around 7 hours a day in front of a screen. This includes television, Social Media, tablets, Smartphones, computers, and electronic devices. Parents need to help children develop the correct skills to handle the media they are surrounded with daily.

Research has linked excessive media use to problems with attention behaviors, school, sleep patterns, and obesity. There are also strong correlations between technology providing platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.

Technology, if used correctly, can encourage education and strengthen relationships within the family:

Parents are able to message teens about their whereabouts, stay on top of practice schedules, and just chat to say hello.

Younger children are able to practice their math skills and fine tune phonics lessons with educational apps.

Parents can balance work, pay bills, schedule appointments, and look up facts for a homework assignment by simply using a Smartphone or tablet.

Even classroom teachers can provide daily feedback about how a child’s day in school went–with an app!

Guidelines For Introducing The Digital World

Parents should begin by monitoring a child’s use of technology early. It is important to know what sites, apps, or games a child favors and how he or she interacts online. Wise parents will look up ratings, know the suggested age requirements, and be aware of what concepts are being exposed to the child. This will help us stay on top of inappropriate content or extreme violence.

Many educators and health professionals recommend the following guidelines when it comes to media and children:

All screen time should be avoided for infants under age 2.

The International Society For Technology In Education recommends children possess basic technology skills by the age of 5.

Two hours per day is the maximum amount of time children and teens should be allowed to use devices.

Look for high quality content that promotes interaction.

Follow the 20/20/20 Rule. Reduce eye strain by encouraging children to limit use to 20 minutes at a time, then take at least a 20 second break, and look at something 20 feet away.

Integrating Technology Appropriately

Digital literacy is starting to become a necessity in our hyper connected world. Children need to develop the skills necessary to safely navigate online and digital technology. Similar to reading and arithmetic, this is a skill that every child will need to use in the future.

Here are five pointers to help you foster appropriate technology use in your child:

Take advantage of apps that allow your child to interact with you.

Limit passive technology use. Simply watching videos for hours and hours on end isn’t benefiting the child.

Technology shouldn’t replace play and social interactions.

Instruct children early about Social Media etiquette.

Schedule technology use for limited amounts of time during the day.

Dial Up Control

Technology has come a long way in a few short years (okay 15, but who is really counting?). We have seen electronic devices transform our family communication, entertainment, and organization within the last decade.

It can be hilarious when we remember the thrill of heading out to rent movies from the local Video Store or the fact that we couldn’t Google everything on our cell phone… we still had to rely on encyclopedias. To simply limit the Internet, we unplugged the dial up modem.

With a little effort and awareness, parents can dial back control and ensure their children benefit from technology advances.

About Amy Williams
I am a journalist and former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. Having spent several years working one-on-one with teenagers, I have seen the impact that social media and the internet has on their minds and emotions. We live in a digital age and I believe that it’s time for parents and educators to let this truth impact the way we raise our children and students. I am passionate about this subject and work to inform and motivate others through my writing.
Twitter: Amy Williams