Being a parent is never easy, but with each new year come new challenges. Cutting-edge technologies seem to appear more quickly than ever, and it can be difficult to know how — or how not — to incorporate them into your child’s life.
There’s no one-size-fits-all guide for dealing with technology as a parent, but there are a few guidelines that can help you. If you’re hoping to give your child a healthy relationship with tech, make sure to avoid these five mistakes:
- Starting Kids Off Too Early
Kids seem to be embracing technology at younger and younger ages, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, more than half of kids have a smartphone by age 11 and spend an average of almost five hours on smartphones for things other than school or homework. That time is spent watching videos, playing video games, browsing websites, and hanging out on social media.
Gabb Wireless, a cell phone designed specifically for kids, suggests having kids wait until high school to have social media accounts. Putting off social media until they’re older helps keep them off sites that have easily accessible explicit content. It also encourages them to spend more time outside and less time staring at a screen.
- Modeling Bad Tech Behavior
As a parent, it can be easy to lean on the adage “Do as I say, not as I do,” but this kind of logic simply doesn’t work for kids. A survey from Common Sense Media found that 45 percent of parents feel addicted to their phones — an addiction that most children will likely be highly aware of.
At a time when more parents than ever are being forced to keep close to their devices for work, modeling good tech behavior can be a daunting task. Consider making tech guidelines for your children that you yourself can play a part in, like turning off all screens after a certain time in the evening. Parenting isn’t simply a one-way street: Too much screen time is unhealthy for everyone, so some of the policies you put in place for your kids can be beneficial for you as well.
- Using Old Tech
It might sound a little counterintuitive — surely old technology is more restrictive and less dangerous for kids to use than newer devices? The truth is a bit more complicated. While some old cell phones or computers might just offer the bare minimum, others might be missing integrations that newer platforms offer.
Look at the iOS 13.3, released in late 2019. It incorporated brand-new features that allowed parents to limit and monitor a child’s screen time — until it was revealed a few weeks later that the update actually made it possible for kids to do just about anything they wanted. Older phones or devices are likely operating on outdated software like this or are simply composed of ineffective hardware; either way, you need better digital infrastructure to work with.
- Not Setting Limits
Unchecked screen time can wreak havoc on a child’s well-being, so it’s best to establish boundaries early on. When your child first starts engaging in heavy-duty technology, be sure to lay out clear ground rules for how long she can be on her devices and what devices she’s allowed to use. Not doing so can carry dangerous consequences.
Screen time-limiting service Kidslox reports that nearly three-quarters of young people claim to have missed out on sleep due to internet usage. Rest is a crucial component of an adolescent’s development, so parents need to do everything they can to ensure that technology isn’t interfering with their child’s well-being.
- Swearing It Off Entirely
With technology more difficult to navigate than ever, it can be tempting to just excise it entirely from your child’s upbringing. While a tech-free childhood may sound like a good idea, it ignores the numerous benefits that technology can bring into a kid’s life.
Whether it’s using FaceTime to see distant relatives more often or playing video games to boost STEM education, technology can be an invaluable part of childhood — if utilized correctly. Tech undoubtedly brings numerous risks along with its usage, but swearing it off entirely for your child is a risk in and of itself. Young people need to be well-versed in computing if they want to be successful on the job or in higher education. Introducing them to the basics of technology early on can make grasping difficult concepts much easier down the line.
There’s no such thing as simple parenting in the internet age, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Avoiding some common mistakes can make tech usage a positive for your child, no matter her age.