Teaching your child to use technology wisely

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There have been endless debates and studies on how much screen time is good for your child. The American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP) has for years stated that children aged two and under should have absolutely no screen time at all, and that parents should limit screen time for older children to just two hours a day.

But in a surprising move in 2015, the AAP changed its guidelines to reflect our changing awareness of how digital media is used. The AAP now defines screen time as time spent using digital media for entertainment. Other uses of digital media (such as for doing homework) don’t count as screen time. The academy now thinks that Infants under the age of 18 months should not be exposed to any digital media at all, but that for children aged between two and five, screen time should be limited to one hour a day, and that limits for older children should be based on a parental assessment of needs and habits.

Another factor in terms of screen time and digital media use that most studies don’t take into account, is the quality of that time spent using technology. Here then are some ideas for how to introduce technology in a way that will help, rather than hinder your kids.

Set healthy limits
You might want to base these on the AAP guidelines, or come up with your own, depending on your family needs and what works for your child. Don’t forget to take regular breaks to avoid eyestrain. A great way to set limits is also by modelling them – make sure that you practise what you preach and limit your own media use around your child!

Work together
Sit down and actually use technology as a tool that lets you build bonds with your child. Ask leading questions (What do you think we should do next?) or exploratory questions (Where does this go? What happens now?). This way, your child learns so much more than just the educational goals embedded within the app – you’re also developing social skills and communication.

Find a game you can play together
Multiplayer games also facilitate bonding, while allowing you to demonstrate good sportsmanship. Gaming together gives you a hobby that you can talk about, and can prompt interesting discussions.

Get involved
Treat media like anything else your child does – get to know his world. Know what apps he is using, what sites he is visiting, and who his friends are, both online and off. Work with your child to come up with a media plan together.

However tech fits into your family’s life, don’t forget to keep face-to-face time intact. Keep areas of your house screen-free zones, such as bedrooms and the dining table, and don’t forget to reconnect regularly with your child.

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