Children and Technology: How Much is Too Much?

By J. Christy McKibben

Who would’ve ever thought that we’d all have internet access right in the palm of our hands, all the time, and wherever we go? There’s a whole new generation of children who’ve never lived a day without this technology—in their hands, at all times, wherever they go. But, many people are asking what kind of guidelines parents should set for their children regarding technology use. Another question? Is technology harmful or beneficial to children—or both?

Attention Deficit

Children often get distracted by technology—even when walking! Children are used to texting and looking at their social media while having conversations, and while doing homework. This isn’t a healthy combination.

I’ve even heard that there’s a name—“Text Neck” used for young people who have neck problems due to constant texting on their phones. The millennial generation may truly be known as the hunchback generation someday.

Learning too Much too Early?

With internet access so readily available, there are millions of sites that children should never have their eyes on. Violence and pornography are two of the obvious problems. But, you name it—it’s on the internet. Cyberbullying has become another vast problem with internet use. Children often don’t realize the kind of serious pain, and other consequences, that may occur with just one bad decision. It’s important for parents to know if their child is a victim or a bully, so action may be taken to remedy the situation.

It’s crucial that parents know what their children are viewing and are involved in while on the internet. It’s tempting to be sneaky and “spy” on their devices. But instead, it’s probably best to let your children know that you will be regularly monitoring what they’re accessing, and who they’re communicating with.

Development and Learning

Technology is incredible for learning. There are so many educational sites, videos, and classes. As long as legitimate sources are chosen, of course. A child no longer has to spend hours in the school library looking up information in an encyclopedia or other textbook. Research for schoolwork is a breeze nowadays. Have a question? Just Google it.

Another bonus to technology—specifically cell phones? Parents, at least in theory, should always be able to contact their children. It’s definitely nice to know where your child is at all times, and that if they get into trouble, they can contact you. No more searching for a payphone!

Ideas to Set Limits

Common Sense Media suggests that “A healthy media diet balances three things: what kids do, how much time they spend doing it, and whether their content choices are age-appropriate. Mixing media and tech time with other activities will help families find that happy medium.” Below are some paraphrased ideas from Common Sense Media for setting limits for the family. They may not work for everyone, but they’re a good place to start. Adjust as needed for your family.

  • Create, and abide by, technology-free times and places. Many parents don’t allow technology at the dinner table. Creating evening hours where technology is no longer allowed is another idea.
  • Be aware of the ratings. Know what your child is exploring with their technology. Teach your children to use media responsibly.
  • Maintain open communication. Stay connected with your child, know what they’re playing, reading, and seeing. Encourage your child to ask you questions and consider the messages they’re receiving. This will help them to better understand how media plays a role in their lives.
  • Teach about negative effects of multitasking. Your child needs to know that when they’re “doing their homework”—while watching tv or texting—the quality of their homework will not be what it should be. Your child needs to remain focused on schoolwork only.
  • Lead by example. This is pretty simple. The best way your child will learn about when, and when not, to use technology is by watching you. Don’t use your phone when driving, at dinner, or during any other family activity. The rules should apply to you as well.
  • Consult an expert if needed. If your child is having a difficult time due to over-using technology, and you can’t seem to gain control, consult a professional. Some of these signs may include affecting their grades in school, harming them mentally, or interfering with relationships. Your child’s pediatrician is a good place to start, and they may refer you to a therapist or social worker.

Everyone’s situation is different. Some children are more addicted to technology than others. Even if your child seems to be doing fine, it’s still a good idea to set limits on technology. It’s essential that the internet be used for good. When used properly, technology is truly remarkable.

-J. Christy McKibben

Images via Pixabay by geralt and janeb13

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