Raising kids in a digital age can be difficult. How can we assure our children's safety both offline and online? How can we ensure that their screen time does not jeopardize their chances of getting into college? How can we keep kids from encountering violent pornography before the age of 12? How can we tell if social media beauty filters are harming their self-esteem?
Kids are being raised in a digital age unlike any other in history—how can parents determine what is best for their children? Here are some things to think about to help parents make vital decisions concerning technology and screens.
What is the limit?
"How much screen time is OK? Various aspects must be considered, including:
Consumption of specific digital media and content (e.g., games, social media, pornography, the news, online videos, apps, a discussion board, texting, FaceTime, educational content).
The child's individual qualities (e.g., age, maturity, personality, mental health).
Reasons for using technology (e.g., to escape problems, boredom, to socialize, to feel good, to achieve, to learn, to be someone else).
Context and setting (e.g., alone, with peers, with known others, with unknown others).
Time spent using technology versus time spent doing other things (e.g., sleeping, homework, physical activity, socializing offline, hobbies, outdoor experiences). (Orben, 2021)
Family values (to what extent does the specific type of digital media and content match with the values of the family?).
Several academics have used the phrase "digital diet," in which we consider a child's consumption of digital media in the same manner that we consider a healthy diet. Technology is analogous to a sweet treat or candy in that it provides a quick rush of dopamine and reward; the question is, how much sugar should your child consume? The answer is that it depends. Balance is the goal of any good diet. Children's brains develop as a result of experience—they require a variety of events for neural connections to form and learning to take place. So, perhaps an important thing to examine is what experiences your child is missing out on while he or she is using a device.
How much time is left after following CDC recommendations for daily physical exercise (one hour) and sleep (eight to 14 hours, depending on age), as well as hours dedicated to school, homework, meals, and chores? And how much of that time should be allocated to digital media consumption (gaming, perusing social media, watching shows/videos), and how much to other various activities and experiences?
When is it appropriate for my child to begin gaming or using social media?
Another good question, and the answer is, once again, it depends.
There are other factors to consider, such as the Surgeon General's recent declaration that 13 is too young for social media and the expanding amount of data on the possible hazards of both social media use and gaming. Before installing or purchasing any social networking app or game, parents should conduct research—read reviews, look at ratings, visit informational websites regarding the app or game, and learn about the risks and advantages. Remember that what is appropriate for your 12-year-old may not be appropriate for your neighbor's 12-year-old.
When it comes to a child's access to various forms of technology, it may be useful to conceive of it as a continuum that develops on itself. For example, your youngster may begin with only voice calls and FaceTime access to a phone. Then, when they become older and demonstrate maturity, they acquire access to texting (through a parent's phone). They will eventually have access to specific apps and internet media (with parental monitoring apps in place like Bark or Safe Vision). They are then able to game over time (without interacting with strangers, only games with the appropriate ratings, and parental controls in place). They may then be able to set up a social media account and use chat apps (with parents having access to all devices for periodic checks). Finally, they may be able to access all of the functions of a smartphone or other gadget.
Family Technology Strategy
Consider creating a family digital strategy (there are many fantastic ones online—check out Common Sense Media) to serve as a guideline for acceptable/appropriate behavior. For instance, the plan could include:
When are devices permitted to be used? (For example, after homework and before dinner)
When will devices be turned off? (Before school, during meals, or directly before bed)
How long can devices be used before they need to be recharged? (For example, 30 minutes for internet and one hour for TV)
What types of digital material are acceptable? (For example, YouTube Kids, exercise videos, and so forth.)
What kinds of communication are acceptable? (For example, only those known to the child after parental approval)
What should a youngster do if they come into contact with dangerous content (sexually explicit material, self-injury, bullying, racism, suicidality)? (For example, bring the device to a parent and present it to them right away, then have a talk about what they saw and how they feel) Where can technology be used? (For example, in communal areas of the house rather than in bedrooms, all devices "sleep" overnight in the parents' room)
To summarize, technology is not necessarily good or harmful. Instead, there are both potential benefits and hazards to using it. Parents must judge what is developmentally appropriate for their child, and in order to do so, they must be informed about the potential risks and benefits of the specific digital media being consumed. It may appear to be a difficult chore, but it is certainly doable with all of the information available online, parental controls, monitoring applications, scientific studies, and parenting organizations
Parental controls for every digital device
In order to increase the safety of your children while they are gaming or using Social Media, here is a very helpful article outlining parental controls for every digital device.