In our modern, tech-infused society, it seems like children are practically born with a smartphone in their hands. How many of us have seen toddlers sitting in their strollers casually tapping and swiping on their parents’ digital devices like pros? How many tweens are walking around with their own smartphones? Let’s face it: tech is here to stay, and parents are responsible for deciding how and when to introduce their children to it.
The Best Age to Introduce Your Child to Technology
Although it ultimately depends on your parenting style, you can look to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as a guide. They recommend that children not be exposed to any technology before two years of age. Indeed, there are countless articles regarding the harmful effects of exposing children to technology at very young ages. However, the AAP acknowledges that not all tech is detrimental; an example is video chat. Using an iPad for FaceTime, for example, is a fantastic way for children to keep in touch with out-of-state family members or deployed parents.
If you do choose to introduce your child to technology at an earlier age, the AAP suggests to keep it to only high-quality, educational programming, and to watch with them to help them understand what they’re seeing. Resist the urge to use tech as a babysitter.
For preschool children (ages 2-5), consider limiting their screen time usage to an hour a day maximum. Again, make sure that you’re watching along with your child so you can guide them as they process the information they’re absorbing.
Create a Technology Contract for Your Child
Once your child hits elementary school age (ages 6-10), you may consider allowing a little more screen time. Since this is around the time kids tend to become more attached (possibly even obsessed) to tech, it’s crucial to set some ground rules before patterns become embedded. Many families create a “tech contract” to make it easier for children to know what’s expected of them, and the consequences for breaking the rules.
Keep in mind however, that elementary school is also the time when kids start using tech in the classroom. Many schools provide students with laptops or tablets, which they are sometimes allowed to bring home. Therefore, school/homework tech time will need to be navigated alongside fun tech time.
Kids’ online safety becomes very important the more time they spend on digital devices. Teach your children:
- Not to give out personal or private information
- Don’t participate in any “trolling” or bullying activities
- Be aware of any potential predators.
For peace of mind, download our free SecurlyHome mobile app, which allows you to filter out inappropriate content and keep track of your child’s online activity.
For additional safety precautions try the Hub by Securly, which allows you to manage all digital devices in your home.
Teach Older Children Responsible Tech Use
It’s no surprise that during the tween and teen years, kids’ tech use increases dramatically. Some may even have their own digital devices at this point. According to a 2016 TechCrunch article, the average age that kids get their own smartphone is 10.3 years old. Responsible tech use by children at this age is more important than ever. Continue with the family technology contract, but you may need to add new sections such as no texting while driving, or not sending compromising photos/videos of themselves to other people.
The tween years is a particularly complex time in a young person’s life. Puberty, interest in the opposite sex, peer pressure, and not wanting to be seen as a “kid” anymore come crashing down all at once. Such children can be vulnerable to potentially harmful online interactions such as cyberbullying or being lured by sexual predators. In a future article, we’ll discuss tips on how tweens can safely and responsibly use the internet.
Although technology is a large part of our daily lives, the concept of exposing children to it is a different story. We want our kids to learn how to use tech early because it’s fun and useful, but it’s a big responsibility–both for parents and children. Introducing tech slowly and carefully, family tech contracts, and parental safety devices like the Hub all help your family safely navigate the tricky situation of your child’s tech use.