With screen time consuming most of our days, we have to be conscious of how this trend is affecting our kids and shaping their young minds. Growing research supports the notion of parents using media as a teaching tool to increase digital literacy skills and as a way to discourage kids from mindlessly consuming media.
What does this mean for parents?
It means that we must teach our kids that media represents far more than entertainment—it can involve learning through an educational app or game, creating videos, songs, or pictures, and connecting with others. Parents should actively encourage family connection through media—this involves using media together as a family.
For younger children in particular, pediatrician Jenny Radesky encourages prioritizing “unplugged, social, and unstructured play as much as possible” over any kind of screen time. We have known for years that creative play is good for children, but boredom is also beneficial for child development. Screen time can become a mind-numbing outlet where kids disengage their brains and escape boredom. However, psychologists actually encourage boredom, emphasizing that it helps children learn to be still, quiet their minds, sit with themselves, and understand who they are.
Here are some tips to help you be a better digital role model for your child:
- Don’t reach for your phone when you’re distracted.
Yes, we all multitask, and thanks to our phones, we can multitask more than ever before. But if you’re eating dinner, responding to work emails on your phone, and listening to your child talk about his day at school (all at the same time), your child isn’t getting your full, undivided attention. Plus, they learn that it’s acceptable to reach for their phone or tablet whenever they’re bored, distracted, or fidgety.
It’s important to teach your child that there is a time and a place for using their devices, but that there also must be certain spots in your home and times in the day where devices aren’t allowed, so that you and your family can talk, listen, and interact without devices or without feeling the need to multitask.
- Don’t use an electronic device to soothe your child during or after a tantrum.
If your child is throwing a screaming, arms-flailing, rage-filled tantrum in a crowded supermarket, and you simply want the theatrics to stop quickly and with as little effort as possible, it can be tempting to hand them a tablet or smartphone to pacify them. However, parents shouldn’t use electronic devices to calm their child down during or after a tantrum.
According to Medical Daily, “pacifying children with a device doesn’t treat their behavior, but instead delays and possibly worsens the problem.” This practice can also hobble effective communication between the parent and child, making it more likely that the child will not listen to their parents when another tantrum or fight occurs.
- Don’t feel pressured to introduce technology early.
Don’t feel like you have to introduce technology or media into your child’s life earlier than you or they feel comfortable in order to secure a competitive advantage. According to pediatrician Jenny Radesky, “interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly” and catch up with their peers once they’re older or in school.
If you want to slowly begin teaching your young child about internet safety, online etiquette, and social media in a safe, private environment, we encourage you to check out eebudee, a training platform that prepares kids aged 4 to 12 (and their families) for the online world.
To sign up, head to our website. The eebudee chat app is also available on Android and iPhone.
**The eebudee online platform and app are in beta phase and will be officially launched in 2017. If you have any feedback or suggestions, we would love to hear from you.**