Raising Kids in the Current Digital Age: Parenting Tips
October 10, 2019
It seems as though babies know how to use a smartphone before they even have a bite of solid food. Good parenting is already tough, and that was before we had to figure out how to raise children who are “growing up digital.” But before you start unplugging all your children’s devices, learn how a balanced life with technology can actually be beneficial for your child's development. Positive parenting with digital devices begins with the relationship with your child.
3 Pros and Cons of Children Using Technology
There are always two sides to every story. The same goes for technology. Raising children in the digital age can have both its advantages and its disadvantages.
Sometimes we make out technology to be the villain, but when looked at through a different perspective, it can have its moment of glory as of the hero.
Technology Serves as Educational Entertainment for Children
With kids having more and more access to devices such as smartphones and tablets, app developers are creating new educational games where children can learn and play. A great example of an educational app is Kodable, which introduces students to the foundations of computer programming. Kids learn core programming concepts through step-by-step instructional games, if/then statements, and loops. Younger kids (K-2nd grade) learn to code through drag and drop programming, while older kids (3rd-5th) transition into real code.
Educational entertainment doesn’t have to only come through games. YouTube Kids offers educational videos and entertainment content that enhances young minds. Children are already watching countless videos on the internet; YouTube Kids gives parents the peace of mind that what their kids are watching is family-friendly and captures their imagination. When in doubt look up a program on Common Sense Media to determine good role models.
Technology Enhances Language Skills
There is a common misconception that technology hinders children from developing strong language skills, but games that require kids to follow specific instructions for success actually help them better understand written cues. Moreover, just because kids have a tablet in their hands, doesn’t mean they have to be playing video games all the time. Children can read e-books as a way to improve their vocabulary and reading skills.
Not only can technology enhance your child’s English skills, but it can also be an instrumental tool in helping your child learn a new language. Duolingo Kids is a fun and effective way for kids to learn Spanish or French. Through gamified lessons and interactive speaking challenges, children learn sentences and expressions that they can apply in their daily lives and give them the confidence to speak to others.
Technology Prepares Children for the Future
Who says kids must wait to start their educational journey until pre-school? Early learning academies, such as ABC Mouse, start teaching kids language arts, math, science, social studies, and art from the age of 2. Introducing children to academics from an early age helps set students up for success in the future. At Lake Mary Prep, we believe that enhanced learning through the integration of technology kindles a positive attitude towards learning that students will take with them from kindergarten all the way to college.
Like everything in life, there is such a thing as too much. Just as we instruct kids to eat junk food in moderation, we need to encourage them to use technology with restraint.
Technology Promotes an Inactive Lifestyle for Children
The bright, shiny lights of TV screens and touchscreens lure children into sitting on the couch for hours at a time instead of running outside and climbing trees with their friends. In fact, 20% of school-aged children have a BMI which classifies them as being obese. The number of children struggling with their weight has tripled in the last few decades. Spending more time indoors in front of the screen increases the risk of weight gain.
Technology Reduces Imagination
Imagination is a child’s greatest asset. It creates a positive impact on the development of a child. What seems like an imaginative child’s play now translates to creative thinking in their teens. Technology spoon feeds creative storylines through videos and games instead of encouraging children to imagine their own adventures. Studies show that reduced imagination leads to an increase in psychiatric disorders, ADHD, anxiety problems, and sensory processing disorders.
Technology Hinders Time Management Skill Development
It’s so easy for kids to keep playing games or watching TV when it’s entertaining, but soon “just one more level” becomes a 6-hour video game binge. Without a way to monitor how much time they are spending on an activity, children become hyper-focused on what is in front of them. This hinders them from learning important time management skills, such as organization and goal-setting.
At Lake Mary Preparatory School, teachers assess true academic rigor in the classroom by challenging students with a variety of opportunities to demonstrate their learning ability. In order for students to truly grow and succeed, they need to learn how to balance all their classes and assignments, as well as their extracurricular and social life. Students may feel overwhelmed if they don’t have the proper time management skills under their belt.
Balancing Technology Use in Your Home
As a parent, you can guide your children to the advantages of technology and steer them away from the disadvantages in a variety of ways.
Create a Family Technology Policy
Sit down with your kids and establish what devices can be used, when, and for how long. Ask your kids what they think is fair and if they have any suggestions on how to better balance technology use in your home. Don’t reward children with technology time that exceeds what you establish in your family technology policy. You can also set up parental controls on your children’s devices to ensure that what they are downloading is age-appropriate and that they are abiding by the rules. Explain to your kids that the parental controls aren’t there to spy on their every move but are implemented so that they can be internet-safe. Incorporating family members into a child's media and tech life can help set limits.
Make Family Time a Priority
It’s easy to say “don’t let your child isolate themselves from the family in order to spend more time connected to their devices,” but it can be difficult to convince them to spend time with their siblings or with the entire family, especially if your kids are older with a social media life to manage. Instead of dragging your kids out of their room to simply sit at the dinner table, get out of the house as a family and do something fun. The Orlando area has lots of activities that are sure to create lasting memories. Had a busy week and just want to relax at home with your kids? Plan board game or DIY night and have fun while eating homemade ice cream sundaes.
Raising children in the digital age can seem a bit confusing at times, but don’t let it scare you. Children are already exposed to smartphones and tablets, even if they can’t get their hands on the devices. Teaching your kids early on how to use technology in a healthy manner and making time to spend with them outside of the virtual world to develop child behaviors that will be instrumental to their success in the future.