Children and adolescents 18 or younger make up 33% of Internet users worldwide. Translation: our youth are growing up in a digital age that seems to be a permanent fixture. The acclimation of technology with maturation is something all parents will have to navigate. More youth are preferring to use technology as a source of entertainment in lieu of playing outside or doing another community/friend activity.
Despite children and adults relying on technology more to stay connected in this digital age, there are healthy rules you can instill for your children at home. These rules can help responsibly navigate the use of media while maintaining a strong connection to the real world. Listed below are some tips for raising your children in the digital age.
Set Expectations and Limits
Let electronic usage be a reward for your children if they successfully fulfill their after-school responsibilities at home. For example, have them finish their homework and tidy their room before you allow them time to use their favorite media.
Ask your child what electronic activity they will be doing during their technology time. Set appropriate limits based on age so they can get an enjoyable experience without overdoing it.
If you have a four-year-old on an educational tablet app, let them play for no more than 20-30 minutes to encourage free play with other non-media activities at home. A thirteen-year-old can healthfully consume social media for about 30-45 minutes while a sixteen-year-old can enjoy one to two hours of video gaming. Technology limits are up to your discretion as a parent.
Let Mealtime and Family Time Be Media-Free
When your family is at the table eating dinner or doing a family-based activity together, bring out an electronics collection basket. Have every family member, including yourself, place their electronic devices in the basket during meal time or family quality time until that designated media-free time is over.
Children who consume media during mealtime have a higher likelihood of becoming obese. They are focusing more on the media than noticing the internal signs of whether or not they are full. Alternatively, younger children may be more interested in watching television or playing a game and become too distracted to want to finish their food.
Teach Children to Surf the Internet Responsibly
Raising your children in the digital age means teaching your children to safely surf the Internet. Safety awareness and precautions will hopefully reduce the likelihood of your child dealing with online predators. Ask your child what websites and apps they like to use on their electronic device. This is a great way to be sure they are surfing the Internet responsibly.
Let your child know not to give strangers any personal information. This is especially true when playing an online interactive game. While they can safely collaborate with different people to play online games, they should not be talking about personal information.
Allow Tech-Free Hours
Especially if you are on a holiday break, instituting at least one tech-free hour for everyone at home each night can help you and your children unplug from the media, so you can return to it refreshed. A tech-free hour can be spent reading a book, practicing self-care, catching up on a media-free hobby, or working on a personal goal.
For example, have a tech-free hour between 6 pm to 7 pm for children six and under before their bedtime. Institute this same tech-free hour for 7 pm to 8 pm for children seven and older who can stay up a little longer than their little siblings.
Co-Consume Your Children’s Media
Co-consume the media that your children are using so you know what they are up to and if they are using media healthfully. Ask to join in on their video game. Watch a movie with them. Inquire how to play or use a specific app that they use.
Following this method can make the educational and real-life application experience of the media more worthwhile for them. For example, if your child is watching their first scary movie, be there to guide them through it. Mention that the movie and characters are not real. Highlight what to do in a real life-threatening situation that may be like the movie events.
Raising your children in the digital age can be a scary process. However, instituting specific healthy rules to make limited media consumption more worthwhile can make it an easier venture. Your guidance and rules can help your children to become responsible technology consumers as adults. Remember leading by example is the best teacher.