Is parenting today much harder than it was 20 years ago? Is technology the main reason? The adoption of smartphones and the widespread access to social media have made raising even a child below 18 harder today than it was some decades earlier.
Actually, the biggest debate today among parents is screen time or how to use technology in a healthy way. Each parent wants to know how much time a child should spend on the screen, its impact on the development of their kids, and where they can find sound advice on how to limit the tech use.
The article will review some of the parents’ concerns and how they can strike a balance during these digitally fueled times.
Parents Concerns about Screen Time
1. Children spend more hours on screens, which can affect their mental development
The majority of parents are anxious that children are spending a significant amount of time on the screen, and that could have a negative effect on them. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments closed learning institutions, instituted widespread shutdowns, and ordered people to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus. This led to online schooling and entertainment.
For that reason, parents are apprehensive about the negative effects of technology on their kids’ development because children as young as 5 years can access smartphones, tablet computers, and more. They are concerned about the use of the YouTube platform to entertain and educate kids as well the likely exposure to inappropriate content.
What parents forget is that they are distracted by these devices as well. So instead of spending quality time with their children, they use it on social media.
2. Parenting has become harder today due to technology than it was 20 years ago
Parenting has become harder than 20 years ago, regardless of the number of children and their age. This is because of the impact of digital technology, the rise of social media, increased costs of bringing up a child, and changing values and morals.
They are divided about the use of video-sharing sites. Some think that watching videos on YouTube can be entertaining, teach kids new things as well as expose them to different cultures. Still, others fear that their children could encounter different types of videos, with some having unsuitable material or inappropriate for their age.
Worse still, they are concerned that their children could become a target of online predators, violent content or sexually explicit material, or being harassed or bullied online.
3. Experts and parents concerned about the use of mobile devices
The biggest debate is whether children should own a tablet computer or smartphone. Some parents gift their kids with a smartphone when they attain the age of 12 to 14. Others feel 15 to 17 is the acceptable age. However, they fear that these devices will hurt their social skills, thus fail to develop healthy friendships, affect their creativity and abilities to pursue interests and hobbies.
4. Whether digital grounding is appropriate, when and for how long
Screen time is another tech-related worry in most parents. They want to monitor their children’s digital activities by limiting the screen time or incorporating digital grounding as part of the disciplinary tactic.
So some parents check the websites their child visits, the mobile apps they have downloaded or visit as well as implement parental controls to restrict their digital screens. Others withdraw internet privileges or take away their electronic devices as a punishment.
On the other hand, some parents praise their children’s use of mobile devices because they can install monitoring applications to help them track their location via GPS software or apps. They can also follow their kids on social media, look at who they text or call in order to know who their friends are.
5. Digital devices have caused distracted parenting
Most parents acknowledge that they are also distracted by smartphones and social media. That means they spend too much time playing video games or social media rather than socializing with their children.
How to Control Your Child’s Tech Use
Every parent cares about their children’s success and well-being, and so they want to guide them on how they can live both in the real and virtual world. Therefore, they want to help them to use technology responsibly and only pick habits and skills that nurture them to become successful digital citizens.
The following are some of the basic parenting guidelines that can help parents establish ground rules to bring tech harmony at home.
1. Establish a Balance
As a parent, you should understand that technology is here to stay, and the education sector has embraced online learning. So technology will help your children learn, have fun, stay connected, and express their creativity, and more. Raising tech-savvy children is important because it prepares them for the predominantly digital workforce.
On the other hand, kids can access inappropriate content online, be bullied or harassed while spending too much time on the screen can affect their development. Parents can tackle this new challenge by establishing a sustainable or balanced relationship with tech. This is similar to serving them a healthy diet.
Older kids understand that they can’t survive on candy and dessert, so they need to eat healthy foods besides sweet things. So spending too much time on the screens is like eating empty calories. Instead, they should spare some time for connecting with real people and engaging in physical activities.
A parent can strike this delicate balance in the following ways:
There is no single formula to success; every parenting style is unique: Don’t compare your family with your neighbors, and hence your family’s balance should be unique. So try to harness several benefits of technology and minimize their harmful effects. The balance will make you confident in how your kids interact with technology.
Never ignore warning signs of unhealthy electronic device usage: Identify the number of times your children complain of being unhappy or bored because of not accessing mobile devices. Observe if they have harsh resistance or causes tantrums when you limit their tech usage. See whether the use of a screen interferes with school, sleep, or face-to-face communication.
Revisit this topic over and over: Your kids are growing, and their tech involvement increases with age. The digital world is also changing at a rapid speed, so you have to revisit this topic repeatedly so that you can provide updates on healthy and unhealthy use of technology.
Therefore ensure the following:
- Your kids are not interacting with age-inappropriate content.
- Ensure that the apps they have uploaded are thought-provoking and interactive instead of being passive. For instance, spending some time in a digital art program is not the same as watching YouTube.
- Ensure your kids’ online accounts on social media have appropriate privacy settings to restrict strangers from contacting them.
Set a balance between online and offline activities: Set limits on the amount of time your family can spend on screens and tech. For instance, tech-free times should be on school nights, in the car, or during dinner. Such rules will help your children study and complete their homework, socialize and participate in family activities.
2. Be a Good Role Model
Technology has an irresistible pull on both parents and their children. So your children are likely to imitate your technology habits as they see you engage in distracted walking and driving, binge watching a favorite movie or show, surfing the internet on your laptops, working late on your computer, or checking your phones every minute. Such habits make them feel that they are competing with digital screens for your attention.
The good news is that tech giants like Apple and Google are addressing screen usage by introducing new phone features that limit time spent on certain apps and providing data on time on devices.
Although these digital tools can help to curb your excessive gadget usage, controlling your use of technology will teach your children to unplug.
Additional ways are:
Set work-family life boundaries: Keep your gadgets unplugged in the following times.
- Transitional time for your kids, such as when going or leaving school.
- When you enter your home from work because this helps you to reconnect with your entire family.
- Indoor or outdoor dinner time.
- During outings, vacations, or trips because this helps you to interact with your family.
Avoid unnecessary distractions: Unless it’s an emergency, you don’t have to disrupt the game with your kid or watching a movie with your family. Let that phone call, text message, or email wait until you finish to avoid giving your children the impression that work or social life comes first before them.
Use tech devices responsibly: Never receive a call, text, or chat while driving. Further, avoid oversharing information on social media; instead, follow commons sense rules around technology because your kids are watching you and will follow your steps.
Don’t be hypocritical but instead practice what you preach and avoid the “do as I say not what I do” approach. So have the habits that you want your children to have, show or pick up. You should be balanced in your use of technology and participation in the real world.
3. Incorporate Tech in Your Family Affair
In most family discussions, members discuss their day-to-day activities like doing dishes or their next vacation. Therefore, the family should plan its use of technology in the same manner.
Involve every family member when setting tech rules: Inviting your kids’ opinions when setting limits helps them to learn how to self-regulate and see how screen time is affecting the rest of their lives. Also, they are more likely to support those limits when they are involved in establishing them.
- Engage in your kid’s tech experiences. You can watch or participate in your child’s online activities in order to vet the quality of content they are interacting with. The shared experience will help you bond, boost their confidence as you experience their virtual world together, and help you keep up with their experiences because technology is changing at a higher speed.
- Like any in any other areas of parenting, tailor each experience to an individual child. Each interaction should be based on a child’s personality, age, and needs. One child may avoid playing inappropriate games on your computer, while another will not want to own a smartphone even though their peers have it.
- Allow them to make their own decisions as they age because the family rules should be an introduction to technology.
4. Keep the phone away from babies under 2
Babies can only tap or swipe; however, keep your mobile devices away as much as possible. Parents use many apps and cartoons to grab their babies’ attention, such as when dining out or performing household chores.
However, giving your baby an electronic device to distract them during their first three years of growth may affect their emotional, social, linguistic, or motor skills development. Therefore allow them to interact and experience the real through live interaction with others and with all their senses instead of distracting them with a screen. Getting them to play with an actual ball is not the same as showing them a picture of a ball of a bouncing ball on the screen.
Further, introduce your baby to technology progressively as they age and allow them to spend their awake time absorbing everything in their surroundings so that their brain can develop properly.
When your child gets past 2 years, you can give them an hour of screen time a day. Maintain that between 2 and 5 years and offer consistent limits past 6 years.
5. Protect Your Devices
Technology can be dangerous to your child, and they too can be hazardous for your devices. So lock your devices to prevent them from accidentally destroying your smartphone or making in-app purchases.
- Use protective cases with thick padding to kid-proof your smartphone and tablet.
- Set screen time limits and restrict features and apps.
- Teach your kids to how to take care of their devices as they grow.