As a parent, you want your children to be healthy, happy, and active. You want them to have a sense of curiosity about the world, to engage with the world, and have the desire and ability to engage with others around them. The vision you have of your kids probably includes lots of activity, learning, reaching and growing, mentally, emotionally and physically. It probably doesn’t include a lot of tech time, sitting still and staring at a screen for hours on end. Hours of screen time, however, is what a lot of kids do. The question is, should I limit my child’s time with tech? I know you’re probably wondering if you should rein in the digital time to make room for other activities? Today’s guest post discusses the topic of growing up with iPads and looks at some of the pros and cons so you can make the best decision for your family. Read on!
* This is a guest post by Dakota Findley *
A Connected World
We live in the information era, a time when devices of all sorts deliver a flood of data, diversions, enticements and learning opportunities right to our fingertips. The material we see is designed to capture and hold our attention, whether it’s a scientific report detailing thrilling new discoveries or click-bait designed to deliver your eyeballs to an advertiser. This is a double-edged sword, providing us with a wealth of knowledge and information, while also offering us time-waisting solitude that does nothing more than bring a slight smile to our faces.
Every Time is Prime Time
The 1950s-1980s was the television era, and everyone knew that the best shows were on between dinner time and the late news report. Many families had a daily pattern: finish your homework first, enjoy dinner with the family, and then you can watch your favorite TV program.
Today, every hour is prime time. Around the clock, kids can find new material to watch, new games to play, and people to interact with on social media. Trying to set a time to use the computer, like the prime time hours for television, likely seems unreasonable and perhaps even impossible to enforce.
Why Should You Limit Tech Use?
The internet can be a wonderful resource and tool, but it can also create a whole host of problems. Some of the problems that result from too much tech time include:
• Internet addiction
• Childhood obesity
• Psychological problems
• Eating and sleeping disorders
• School problems – failing grades, skipping classes, bullying, etc.
• Attention issues
Interestingly, some of the biggest names in technology, like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, had been found to limit their time with technology.
Limiting digital use allows you to more easily monitor what your children are doing online, which makes it possible for you to help them avoid inappropriate material and getting involved in activities such as cyberbullying. You’ll also ensure that they spend their limited time more productively, because they won’t want to waste the little time they have on things that are random or pointless.
Even just limiting their time by restricting use after bedtime or when you’re out of the house can be enough. When someone else is around, kids tend to be less likely to try to find inappropriate material or engage in other activities that they know are wrong or questionable.
Restricting use also has the added benefit of creating more time for other activities, such as sports, playing outside, spending time with friends or family or other things that are more active and engaging in the real world.
Why Shouldn’t You Limit Tech Use?
While there are some good reasons to consider limiting tech use, there are some reasons not to limit it that are just as valid.
One such reason is that by creating scarcity, you create a stronger desire. If you’re in a desert with only one bottle of water, you know you need to save that water, yet you find yourself thirstier than ever. By limiting tech time, you create a stronger urge in your child to use tech. This sets them up for covert binging when you’re not around – whether that’s at Grandma’s house, the neighbor’s, or even at school.
Another reason is that by limiting digital use, you could also be limiting your child’s future. Many people found future technology careers by starting out as video gamers as kids. By restricting their use, you may also be restricting their ability to spread their wings and discover their passion.
One argument that has often been made about digital time is that it prevents or stunts social interaction, but in today’s world, this no longer holds true. Online gaming is often a social event these days, and the advent of social media has made it possible to make connections with people around the world.
A final thought on why you shouldn’t restrict your child’s tech use: Do you restrict your own? If not, then this would be an excellent example of wanting your child to do as you say, not as you do, and we all know how that works out. Your child will find it more difficult to take you seriously and may even outright disrespect the rules if you don’t follow the same ones yourself. All your valid reasons for not restricting your own won’t matter to a child who simply sees what appears to be an unfair rule.
Make the Rules as a Family
If you decide to restrict your child’s tech time, don’t just lay down the law. Engage them in the process with you. Discuss your reasons for making this change, what you hope they’ll gain from it, and ask for (and truly listen to) their feedback.
Finding a middle ground is the ideal method for ensuring they get the most benefit: don’t give them totally free rein, but don’t put such tight controls on tech that they have no room for error. By taking the middle path instead, you ensure that you can guide them, teach them and help them learn from minor, relatively harmless mistakes.
Your kids are growing up in a world unlike the one you grew up in. In this world, digital content and the tools to access and deploy it, are often key to a productive, wholesome life. Your challenge as a parent is to work alongside your child to help them master this, instead of being a roadblock to their success. Help your child understand the dangers that lurk among the riches of the digital world, and teach them how to step away from the flat world of the device and into the real world.
This is a guest post by Dakota Findley
Dakota it the editor at DealMeisters.com in addition to being published on a wide ranging spectrum of respected sites. His writing inspirations are drawn from the areas of education, technology and family budgeting.