Most moms grew up in the era just before the internet made its way into the home. We remember the pleasant thrill of phone calls and the frustration of being barred from going to the mall to visit friends.
Compared to how we experienced childhood and adolescence, today’s children are almost aliens. Most little ones can hardly sit up before they see a screen; toddlers and kids are getting their own accident-proof devices to play games, take pictures, and more. To many moms, the access to such advanced tech at such a young age is overwhelming, but it is necessary to raise children who feel comfortable and confident using modern devices.
Still, that doesn’t mean your kids should be let loose with tech. The internet is a dangerous place for kids and adults alike, and it only takes a small online mistake for your child (and your family!) to suffer greatly. If you want to raise your kid to be tech savvy, you need to learn a few guidelines.
The Right Example
Kids are copycats. From the day your baby is born to well after they leave for college, they are learning how to be a human by watching and imitating everything you do. So, when they see you clutch your smartphone with everlasting intensity, hardly peel your eyes from the television or computer screen, and take pictures of any- and everything, they begin to understand the world as a place where tech is utterly indispensable.
Whenever you use tech around your kids, you need to set the right example. You should limit the time you spend on tech, especially in social situations or while driving. You should strive to stay informed about how tech works, its benefits, and its dangers. Whenever you reach for your smartphone or laptop with your kids nearby, you should consider the scene from their perspective and alter your behavior accordingly.
The Right Lessons
In parenting — as in almost every other aspect of life — communication is key. The more you can provide your child with truthful information, the better they will be at making informed decisions and taking informed actions. It is wise to start educating your child early about internet safety, so when they begin exploring the web by themselves, messages about potential threats and proper behavior are well-ingrained.
Whenever you give a lesson concerning technology — also, whenever you establish a rule — you should be prepared to explain why. “Because I said so” is not enough to encourage your kids to learn internet safety; you need to tell them about the real dangers lurking online, so they will seriously consider your instruction and remember how to stay safe.
Initially, you should keep a close watch on your child’s tech activity. However, as your child gets older, you will need to let them spread their digital wings and soar. Internet security tools can help you monitor where your child is going on the web and prevent them from navigating to exceedingly sketchy corners — and stop them from contracting some digital diseases, too. However, if you have laid the proper groundwork, you should be able to trust them to follow a few sensible rules. These should include:
- Never share your passwords — not even with your best friends.
- Never give out any personal information online, such as your phone number, address, full name, and school.
- Never respond to something scary or threatening. Tell a parent or teacher right away if you see something that makes you uncomfortable.
- Introduce your parents to any friends you meet online. Even if you are sure your friend is someone you know in real life, you should have a parent help you double-check.
You might also impose time limits or curfews for technology to prevent your child satiating themselves on screens. However, experts say that it is more useful to think of tech time in terms of quality rather than quantity; as long as your kid is using tech for schoolwork or engaging with wholesome entertainment, you might not need a limit.
The Right Age
Almost all experts agree that children 2 years old and younger have no business being on or near screens, save the occasional video chat. It isn’t necessarily detrimental to introduce television to toddlers, as long as you remain nearby and able to explain what they are seeing. Experts also agree that kids younger than 6 can use screens for about an hour a day — but any more than that could result in language delays and disrupted sleep patterns, which could impact their health for life.
Other devices, like personal tablets and smartphones, should be handed out at your discretion. For some households, it is appropriate for a 10-year-old to have a smartphone so working parents can get ahold of them at any time. Fortunately, social media sites all have age minimums of 13, so you shouldn’t have to worry about social sites until teenage-dom.
You didn’t grow up in such a tech-rich environment, but like it or not, your kids will. The best you can do is help them learn about tech in a healthy way. If you follow these guidelines, your kids should be comfortable and confident around tech.