As technological advances seem to be making leaps and bounds every day and new devices become integrated into our lives more regularly it’s easy to feel as though we may be too plugged in. It may also seem as though our children are infatuated with – perhaps even addicted to – these technological wonders. While new technologies and media can be used as effective tools to support learning and development, it’s also very easy for children to simply use technology as mindless entertainment. So how do we keep kids focused on learning and education, rather than the latest video game craze?
Younger children have less self control and ability to regulate their use, so you may want to pay close attention to their technology habits. If you notice your child may be spending too much time zoning out in front of cartoons, tuning out the world while he or she plays on your smartphone or constantly asking to play computer games and acting out when they are told no, it may be time to lay down some ground rules and limit the amount of time and the way in which your child interacts with technology. Here are some tips and simple ways to regulate your child’s technology usage.
- Make a schedule. Choose certain days during which your child is allowed to play video games or watch TV. Other days will be technology-free. Stick to the schedule – having a set routine and firm boundaries will allow your child to get used to the new schedule and accept it more readily.
- Earn technology time. Make it clear to your child that video games and other fun technology need to be earned. Make sure your child is not allowed to watch or play until their homework, chores and any other responsibilities are taken care of. In addition, if your child does something well or goes above and beyond, you can reward them with extra time.
- Screen-free days. If your child is considerably technology-obsessed, consider designating certain days as complete “screen-free” days. Not only will your child not be allowed to play on the computer or watch TV, but you won’t be either. Sometimes we appear just as plugged in and zoned out as our children without even realizing it – checking our email, responding to texts, catching up on our favorite shows. By letting your child see you put away the screens and focus on other tasks, you’ll be setting a good example and showing them that technology-free time is important.
- Offer fun activities. Sometimes children zone out in front of a screen simply because they’re bored and they don’t know what to do with themselves. Jot down some fun, technology-free activities on pieces of paper and put them in a “fun jar.” Whenever your child seems bored or you want to spend the day doing something new and exciting, let them pull a piece of paper out of the jar and spend some time enjoying a new activity with your child. Activities can range from elaborate – visiting a local museum or attraction, to simple – spending some time reading together or trying out a fun science experiment.
- Encourage educational use. Although many games are purely for entertainment purposes, technology can be used as a learning tool. Sit down with your child and spend some time enjoying an educational game or video together. Engage your child and talk about what he or she is learning. Getting your child to connect what he or she is experiencing with real-life lessons will help change the way your child interacts with technology and media, turning them into valuable learning tools.
While it may seem as though technology and new media comes secondhand for younger and younger generations, this does not give our children free reign of new technologies. It is still our job as parents to regulate our child’s use of technology and make sure the time spent in front of screens is as engaging and educational as possible.
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