It’s strange to watch our kids manoeuvre their way through technology at such insane speeds, watching them flick through apps and games on iPads and phones. It can be difficult too, because there’s nostalgia from our own childhoods lurking at the seams. Romanticised images of running around barefoot, building cubby houses and sand castles. “Come on kids”, we think. “go outside and explore! Get off that device!”. Often, it’s hard to reason with them when we try to pry the iPad from their hands. ‘It’s bad for you!’ we retort, all the while not knowing exactly why that is, when we probably spend just as much time scrolling Facebook. So what can we do to make sure the time they do spend on their device is enriching them, rather than harming them?
1. Moderation rather than abstinence
Moderation is important. Enforcing abstinence on a generation that hasn’t lived in a world without the internet doesn’t make sense to them, especially when they are surrounded by peers with their noses pressed to screens. Moderating usage allows kids to learn the fundamentals of computers such as typing, navigation and problem solving, while ensuring they learn the skills that face-to-face communication and outdoor play gives them. One way to moderate this is through tools that help you control what your kids can see and use on their device. Activating basic security features on iPhones, downloading security apps or installing software such as Intego (Macs) or Verity (PCs) is a good place to start. Establishing and enforcing rules around the amount of time our kids spend on devices can help ensure that our kids are participating in activities that don’t require a screen, thus enriching the time that they do spend on screens. Some parents restrict device usage to weekends, others to evenings, some between 4 and 5 after school.
2. Introduce them to meaningful tech experiences
We want to make sure that kids are being creators as well as consumers on their devices. Whether they’re coding games or writing short stories or editing short films on a movie making program, the fact they are in control and creating something ignites their imagination in ways that will have a positive impact on their design thinking skills.
Here is a list of 12 educational children’s apps if you’re looking to replace or add more variety to the apps your kids are engaging with.
3. Talk to their teachers
If your child loves screen time, consider having a conversation with their teacher about whether they have any additional resources that will help their learnings at school. This can make screen time at home beneficial and help with their progression with classwork at school. There are plenty of other resources on the internet that talk about screen time if you’re concerned. One of our favourites is Dr. Kristy Goodwin, who talks a lot about ditching your techno guilt and screen addiction amongst kids.