Authored by: Be Strong International
Since the pandemic started, it seems as if we have learned to further rely on electronic devices in “virtually” every area of our lives. The same goes for parenting. There might be a chance you and your children have increased the number of hours you spend in front of a screen. If you are not planning to send your children back to school, they will need to spend more time in front of their computer screen. How is this going to affect our children? What do we do about this seemingly unavoidable challenge?
Technological advancement is usually devoid of ethics. It’s not evil, it just doesn’t come with an ethical manual.
Every time there is a new technological breakthrough, someone has to create a study on the social repercussions on the general public. What does this mean for parents when it comes to kids and tech? Just because technology is there doesn’t mean it’s good for your children.
However, we must be realists; we can’t get away from technology. We will not be able to isolate our children from electronic devices in our society—unless of course, you have some religious restrictions preventing you from using them. As parents, what can we do about this?
We can limit its usage in our homes.
Parents are responsible for what comes into their homes. We see this when our children exhibit new behavior, and we say: “I didn’t teach you that. Where did you learn it?” If you don’t like your children behaving a certain way, you have to intervene and make sure the behavior disappears from your household. The same thing happens with technology.
You want to keep your child safe and to do that, you give them their first cell phone. Once your child has the phone, they want to start using it like their friends are. This includes the amount of time they spend on it. As parents, we need to be aware of the side effects screen time on any device might have on our children.
The app designers have one goal in mind: they want their apps to be used by everyone.
For them to achieve this, they’re going to develop the app to hold the user’s attention. They will carry out countless tests to find out which colors, sounds, and functions make their app impossible to not use. As a matter of fact, they are going to target your child as a potential customer. One of the ways the app designers make their apps addictive is by reducing the time it takes for the user to receive feedback, such as a reward once they complete a certain action in a game. The potential problem with this is the dopamine hit.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. It is released into our body whenever we accomplish a goal or receive feedback; it’s the substance responsible for us enjoying a reward. There’s nothing wrong with this in appropriate dosages, the problem comes when too much of it is released. Adults addicted to gambling experience a dopamine hit every time they win. Children receive the same dopamine hit when they use their electronic devices. Therefore, we need to be aware of the amount of dopamine they experience so they can learn some impulse control.
How much exposure should your child get to electronic devices? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
Children under 18 months:
Avoid the use of screen media other than video-chatting.
Children 18 to 24 months:
Introduce them to high-quality educational programming and watch with them to help them understand what they’re seeing.
Children 2 to 5:
1 hour of screen time per day.
Children 6 to 12:
Place consistent limits on the time spent using media. Make sure the media usage does not affect their sleep and physical activity.
Children 12 and older:
Designate media-free times, like dinner, as well as screen time-free zones, such as bedrooms.
These are just recommendations, but we must maintain a healthy balance. Study your child’s temperament and adjust accordingly. For example: maybe you recognize a knack for computer programming in your child. In this case, it might be prudent to allow your child a little bit extra computer time to explore computer programming.
Another common side-effect of the overuse of electronic devices in children is weak social skills. Children who spend too much time on their electronic devices have a difficult time having a conversation. Make sure your child has conversations face to face with someone else as often as possible.
Remember, no two children are the same. You will have to adjust your parenting technique to fit your needs. Try a new technique and if it works for you, keep it and if it doesn’t, discard it.
Be Strong International is a nonprofit organization committed to providing holistic educational services and resources to youth and parents in broken families in order to develop and maintain healthy relationships. Their vision is to transform communities by enriching individuals and families with effective relationship tools.
For more on kids and tech and screen-free family fun, check out this post from one Miami mom about how her family has fun without screens.