There’s no denying it’s an increasingly tech-savvy world. Digital devices are everywhere you go, and you likely use at least one of them on a daily basis to communicate with friends and family, stay on top of your job, or even get through your regular routines.
Today’s kids have been born into a world where they will never know anything different from immersive tech. But, does that mean they need access to it right away?
As a parent, you’ve undoubtedly heard the debates over when to give kids a phone, tablet, and other types of tech. But, there are good points on both sides of the argument.
So, what should you do?
How can you feel comfortable giving your kids access to technology, and what’s the right age for doing so?
Understanding the Benefits
Technology is everywhere, and while it can be a bit overwhelming at times, its presence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are many benefits to letting your kids use technology in their everyday lives.
Some of the biggest ones include:
- They’ll become independent learners quickly;
- It can boost their interaction with others;
- They’ll learn how to work through challenges;
- It can enhance community-building;
- They’ll develop unique skills.
One of the biggest arguments people tend to have against kids having tech is the lack of physical activity it purportedly promotes. That really isn’t an issue today, thanks to so many wearable devices. Things like smartwatches and fitness trackers are fantastic ways to gamify physical activity. They can encourage your child to get up and moving. There are even specific apps designed to promote exercise and healthy living. Technology isn’t always just about sitting indoors and staring at a screen. It can also be a great motivational tool, especially for kids.
Considering the Risks
Of course, you have to consider some of the potential setbacks before allowing your kids to step into the digital world. Some research has shown that technology can have a negative impact on developing social skills, overall health, and the ability to focus. Too much technology can lead to children being overly shy or intimidated when they’re faced with social interaction.
There’s also the problem of “too much” screen time. While how much you let your kids use tablets, phones, or gaming systems is up to you, too long in front of screens can have a negative impact on their physical health, including their vision.
Thankfully, you can combat many of these risks by setting boundaries. Some of the best ways to limit screen time and foster a healthy relationship between your child and technology include:
- Supervising their time;
- Setting time limits;
- Giving them clear boundaries;
- Requiring 60 minutes of outdoor play for every 60 minutes on a screen.
If your child is a gamer, you can also keep track of their time by looking at victories and losses, checking out their “quest log,” or helping them find good points in the game to take breaks.
It’s also important to stay up-to-date with tech, yourself. When children start getting online, they’re immediately at risk for things like scammers, cyberbullying, and other threats. Teaching them how to protect themselves is important, so make sure you’re always on top of the latest cyber threats and even common internet slang. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to pass on that wisdom to your kids.
When Is the Ideal Time?
There’s no specific age you should be waiting for when it comes to giving your kids access to technology. While you might not want to be the person handing an infant a phone, don’t feel like you have to wait until they’re in school before letting them take advantage of tech. Every child is different, and you know yours better than anyone.
If you’re wondering what to look for in terms of readiness, consider your child’s maturity level. Ask yourself questions like:
- Will they be able to understand safety guidelines and restrictions if they are playing with a phone or tablet?
- Do they know how to protect themselves online?
- Are they willing to follow the rules you set up for technology use within the home and respect those boundaries?
If the answer to those questions is yes, it could be time to talk with your child about using technology. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should give them their own digital device. Rather, allowing them to use yours or having something the entire family can use is a good place to start.
There are many benefits to kids using technology that you may not have been able to experience as you grew up. Not only can it spark curiosity and creativity, but it can put your child on the right track to being tech-savvy in school so they’re less likely to fall behind.
Don’t be afraid to set rules and boundaries and do even more research on some of the pros and cons of tech for kids. Consider your child’s needs, maturity level, as well as their personality, and let your instincts be your guide as you decide when to give them access to technology. We you do decide to give them access to a phone, try our cell phone contract.