Screens are everywhere. They cut across all social classes and all lines of work. From morning to night—and sometimes night to morning—electronic devices keep us connected and informed. It’s gotten to the point that we can’t imagine living without them.
We’ve become reliant on things like an electronic agenda, software and apps, video games, Netflix, selfies, online vacation bookings and digital newspapers. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Whether it’s for work or play, entertainment or convenience, we access a wide range of highly visual and interactive content through our smart TVs, laptops, mobile phones and tablets. Like it or not, the digital era isn’t going to go away.
But the issue gets a lot more complicated when it comes to kids. We’re all aware of the risks of overusing or misusing electronic devices and, as parents, we all want what’s best for our kids. According to current guidelines, children should be encouraged to use digital technology appropriately. Otherwise they may feel frustrated or excluded from interactions with friends and family. Clearly, you don’t want to hinder their development or leave them wondering why you have access to electronics while they don’t.
To make sure kids use screens responsibly, parents need to set clear rules and time limits. Need a hand with Digital Education 2.0? Here are a few pointers:
First, figure out what worries you about letting kids use digital devices. Is it exposure to violence, wasted time, reduced creativity, eating disorders, a sedentary lifestyle, screen addiction, anxiety, social conflicts or falling grades?
Next, seek out information on the topic by browsing the Internet, reading articles, talking to other parents who have already been through this or consulting with a professional.
The “3-6-9-12” rule, developed by French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Serge Tisseron, has been widely embraced by young parents. In a nutshell, it recommends:
No TV before age 3.
No video games before age 6.
No unsupervised Internet use before age 9.
No social media before age 12.
Before you lay down rules, talk to your kids to find out why they’re interested in using electronic devices. This will give you a better idea of their relationship with screens and what they hope to get from using a tablet, mobile phone or television. Typically, kids think that screens can offer opportunities for escape, learning, entertainment, freedom and social connections.
Once you’ve clarified what their needs are and what benefits they’re looking for, you can establish rules to ensure that your child maintains a healthy and balanced relationship with screens.
When using a device for the first time, children should not be left to navigate the experience alone. Television and the Internet can be great, but they also provide access to images and messages that aren’t suitable for kids. That’s why it’s important to sit with your son or daughter when they watch TV for the first time. Familiarize yourself with the parental controls on internet-enabled devices and make sure you install a family-friendly search engine to block content that’s not suitable for your child’s age. Kidoz, Webjuniors, Xooloo and Wikimini are good choices.
Finally, limit your child’s access to screens and establish clear time limits for using them. This is very important. For example, consider creating a weekly schedule that outlines the days and time periods that your kids are allowed to use electronic devices. Rules are also needed for playing electronic games, watching movies and using the Internet or social media. It may also be a good idea to create a separate user account for your child, with you as the administrator. Don’t forget to configure the parental controls to ensure that your usage limits are respected.
In 2019, living without screens is unrealistic. The key is to strike a balance so that your kids can enjoy the benefits of digital devices while developing a healthy relationship with screens. And remember, you’ve got to set a good example!