Friday, May 17, 2013

How to Set Real World Limits Around Kids and Tech

Author:  Isabella loves writing articles related to kids & tech. A regular contributor for "".  You can check out the recent published article "".
Technology is an everyday part of a child’s life these days. It’s also something that is next to impossible to eliminate it, no matter how much a parent may want to. Kids as young as two and three are commonly using apps on smart phones and tablets, and by the time they enter school, computers are a regular part of how they learn. So how do you set limits around tech so your child can benefit from what it offers without being overwhelmed by it? Here are some tips that can help.

Decide what’s right for your family. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to how much technology should be a part of your child’s life. For some families, allowing their child to have zero exposure is the right choice. For other families, allowing their child to play and learn on a tablet every day is the right choice. As a parent, you have to decide what you’re most comfortable with and what you feel is most beneficial to your child. Of course, this will change as your child gets older. This is an issue that you’ll revisit and revaluate often.

Make sure to look at the whole picture. Often, parents don’t realize how much screen time their child is actually getting because there are so many different pieces of the puzzle and it often happens in small chunks of time. Keep a journal for a week to really get an accurate idea of how much technology and screen time your child is exposed to. Track TV time, including recorded and on demand shows and DVDs, gaming time, including TV, computer, phone, tablet and handheld deices, computer time and, finally, smart phone and tablet time. Your child may not have access to all of those sources, but there’s a good chance he has access to at least a few. Once you know how much time your child is spending in front of each type of screen, you can make a well-informed decision about any limits you want to put into place.

Look at how it affects your child. Your child’s personality, temperament and needs are big factors in deciding how much tech time is appropriate for him. Carefully watch your child to see how much the type of tech and the length of time he uses it affects him. Is his tech time keeping him from doing other things he’d benefit from? Does it leave him feeling agitated and high strung? Or does his tech time help him learn or provide him something he couldn’t get anywhere else? The limits you set will be influenced by your child, so awareness is the first step. The affect may change over time, so stay vigilant about checking in to make sure the limits meet his current needs.

Find ways to enjoy it together. When you use technology together, whether watching a TV show, playing a video game or exploring a new tablet application together, it changes the experience for both you and your child. Having fun together is a wonderful way to strengthen your relationship, to get to know your child better and to show genuine interest in the things he’s interested in. This should still be considered screen time, but it does put a different spin on things.

Help your child understand her social media presence. Children don’t have the capacity to fully understand that the things they post online have far reaching and often permanent results. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to warn them and give them strong boundaries around their online behavior. Helping them make smart choices about what information to share and what to keep private is a key way to help keep them safe while enjoying an online life. 

Teach your child to make smart choices for himself. One of the goals of setting limits is to teach your child how to do that for himself as he gets older. When your child gets to school age, include him in the decision making process around setting limits with technology. Outline appropriate boundaries, but allow him to have input into what kind of tech he wants to use and how often he can use it. When kids are part of the decision making process, they are much more likely to stay within the limits set without argument. It may take a few different tries to get something that both of you are happy with, but having him be part of the process will teach him how to make smart decisions. This way, when he’s faced with what to do at a friend’s house or when he’s alone, he’ll have the tools to do the right thing.

Setting limits around tech with your kids can mean some tough choices. However, setting limits is an essential part of helping children learn to use technology sensibly.
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