Technology, social media, social networking sites, the internet; those words carry a lot of weight in our society and have brought significant change in how we do most everything in life. Many leading researchers say that children ages 0-3 need absolutely no screen time due to their developmental needs and brain growth. Older children need to have a limit placed on the amount of time they are in front of screens. Technology can bring both positive and negative consequences. Following are things to consider as you and your child use technology.
POSITIVES OF TECHNOLOGY:
¨ It promotes education through learning games and videos
¨ It makes learning fun
¨ It increases self-esteem by mastering skills, by increasing decision making speed, and by simulating real world situations.
¨ It promotes personal development through learning to explore and rethink goals, learning how to multi-task, and how to respond to challenges.
¨ It promotes safety by allowing contact at all times, ability to call 911, and apps that can be used to ensure your child is safe.
¨ For children in foster care and who have been adopted internationally, technology can provide ways to stay in touch with friends and other family that they no longer get to see.
RISKS OF TECHNOLOGY:
¨ It can take away from school work and has been shown in research studies to decrease long term concentration. Prolonged gaming or social media use overstimulates the brain’s frontal cortex which leads to children becoming bored quickly and increased impulsivity.
¨ It decreases human interaction. As there is an increase in screen time, it can intensify a child’s social isolation because they are being deprived genuine and real relational interactions.
¨ It raises the chance of obesity, self-consciousness, poor nutrition, and increases the chance for cyber bullying, negative judgement, and negative comments. A study was conducted by cyberbullying.org between 2007-2016 of over 15,000 children and it revealed that 28% of children said they were bullied and 16% of children admitted to being bullies online.
¨ It can introduce inappropriate values, discrimination, and violence through games, movies, and chat rooms that are far more explicit than a child may be prepared to see.
¨ It can interrupt the development of empathy and can lead to narcissism as children become consumed with who likes their posts and what people say regarding their snapchats etc.
¨ It exposes children to identity theft, sexual predators, and fraud. There has been an increase in teen driving accidents and deaths as a result of texting and driving.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR TECHNOLOGY AND OLDER CHILDREN:
Most older children will come to your home with knowledge and experience in using cell phones and lap-tops. They may even bring their own devices with them! They will have experience with the internet and may have developed habits that are not as healthy as you would like. The use of electronics can often be a source of contention between parents and children. Approach changing their habits with these devices VERY slowly. For many children, these devices are comfort objects and taking them away immediately may hinder building a relationship with parents. For children where English is their second language, losing people that communicate with them in their mother tongue can cause significant grief. Sometimes your children will not want to let go of technology because it can mean losing that connection too. If language is not a barrier, start by asking the child to teach you what they love about their device, what sites they think are awesome, who their best friends are etc. Use it as a way to engage with them and get to know them. Once they see you don’t automatically hate it, they may be more willing to accept the rules you would like to enforce. If they love games on their phone, ask them to help you add it to your phone and play the games with them. This may help build your relationship if technology is “their language”. If it’s Social Networking Sites that they use, add those to your device and friend them to begin moving in some of the circles they move in. If they are communicating regularly with people, participate in these calls/chats with them and talk to them about what they miss with those people. Validating those feelings of loss for them can be monumental. Knowing that you recognize their loss and give them permission to mourn those losses can strengthen your relationship with them. Then as time goes on, start slowly introducing things like “no device days” where you do something as a family or introduce the rule of no devices in the bedroom.
HOW TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN:
¨ Model appropriate use! If they see you on your device any moment you have free time, they will learn to copy you. They need you to show them that technology is not the most important thing.
¨ Set family rules about screen time. This can range from a max amount of hours each day to only having the password once homework and chores are done, etc.
¨ Have a rule of no screens in the bedrooms. This can protect from late night temptation to use devices and has been found in studies to help increase amount and quality of sleep.
¨ Place your computer in a common area in the house. Children are more likely to be careful of what they search if they know their parents could see it at any time.
¨ Engage them! Set aside time each week of no electronics and use that time to do family activities. When screen time is off limits, plan to connect and get to know your children better. It may sound harsh, but often families have screen time issues because the parents do not want to put down their devices. For these changes to really be effective, parents need these rules to apply to them as well.
¨ As the parent, monitor what games, apps, etc. are being played and downloaded. Go through their internet and app download history and talk through everything calmly even if it is negative.
¨ Know what your child is interested in so that you can be aware of what they are learning and doing.
¨ Teach tech-etiquette. For example, no phones at the dinner table or no phones when someone is talking to you or when in line at the store etc.
¨ Create a calendar to teach balance. If their calendar shows an excess of technology use (don’t count homework time against them if they are truly using it for homework), then help them get their calendar into a better balance.
¨ Talk to your children. The more they feel like they have your undivided attention, the less they may feel that they “need” technology.
¨ Stick to any rules you create!
¨ Talk to your children. Know them better than anyone else.
¨ Educate yourself on what is trending with kids so that you can better understand what they are viewing and why.
¨ Spend time with your children on the internet and have them teach you what they like to search and what websites they like to use the most.
¨ Utilize parental control/monitoring apps so that you know what they are downloading or searching for and can address any concerns with them.
¨ Tools/apps that parents have found successful are:
Circle with Disney
¨ Keep the app password for their phones a secret so that they have to come to you before they can down-load any new apps to their phone.
¨ Install protective software for blocking, monitoring or filtering websites.
¨ Know all of your children’s passwords for email and social networking sites and remind them that you will periodically log in and check what they are doing.
¨ Give guidelines for what type of info should never be given out over Social Net Work Sites like addresses, social security numbers and credit card numbers.
¨ Teach your child how to use secure settings so that they are better protected from online predators.
¨ Remind teens that they never have to do what an online person is telling them to do- like give out personl information or meet them somewhere or send them pictures. They can 100% always log off or block that person.
In closing, as parents are aware of the risks of technology it will provide protection for children. Be aware of any changes you may observe in your child’s mood or behavior. This could be an indication that they are on sites that are not healthy, are having to much screen time, or they have become a victim of cyber-bullying. Using the tools cited above, keeping communication open, and educating them on potential dangers will help to keep them safe. It is equally important to remember that there can be a healthy, educational, and fun side to technology. Parents can use technology as a tool to advance the relationship and connection with their children. The more we communicate with our children about appropriate internet use and give them ground rules within which to work, the more they will be able to flourish and use technology safely.
Developed by Jennifer Travis, LCSW, XXXXX, References: Colleen Gengler, University of Minnesota Extension https://www.extension.umn.edu/family/families-with-teens/fact-sheets/teens-and-the-internet.pdf;Pew Research Center: Internet, Sci-ence, and Tech http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/introduction-teens-tech/;Tanya O’Daniel LCSW, PIP. APAC: Electronics and The Disconnected Child Webinar ;http://www.parentalcontrolsapps.com/parents-5-tips-for-your-child-to-stay-safe-on-internet/;www.dasafenet.com