Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, was a low-tech parent. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? But he didn’t let his kids have access to the iPad according to a recent article in The New York Times. When asked how his kids were enjoying the new iPad Jobs told the reporter: “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” In the same article, Evan Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, also admitted to being anti-iPad, stating that he prefers his two young boys to read physical books.
We all know the potential health dangers of technology overload (obesity, poor school performance, sleep issues, bullying, to name a few). And we sure don’t want our kids turning into tech zombies, unable to make eye contact or hold a conversation without a device in their hands.
So are these high-tech executives onto something? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) would probably say yes. They have some pretty strict guidelines regarding screen time (albeit a tad idealistic, but the overall message is a good one: set limits):
- No screen time for kids under age 2
- Two hours a day (tops) for older children
I must admit (and I’m probably not alone here) that my daughter started swiping her sticky fingers across my smartphone to view photos at the age of 2. And shortly after, she knew exactly how to tap the tablet screen to start the game (we only allow alphabet or number games or puzzles, and I’m with William when it comes to reading physical books to your children. I just want her to experience the feel of turning pages and the smell of books).
And while I worry about introducing technology too early, I also worry about her not being exposed enough. Whether we like it or not, it’s part of our world and part of our child’s education and entertainment. And part of our responsibility as parents is helping them navigate technology in a healthy way. Here are some proven strategies:
Study up. Take time to get familiar with the gadgets your kids are likely to use. This will enable you to help them make smarter decisions regarding usage.
Be a role model. As a freelance writer, it’s hard not to be over connected – checking my phone for emails, quickly scrolling my Facebook feed for story ideas – but I try to put my phone away and limit any computer time around my daughter. She deserves my full attention, especially during crucial times like family dinner and nightly reading.
Set a time limit. Does your child want to grab for his gadgets the minute he comes home from school, even before he does his homework? That’s okay, but many experts say it’s smart to set an allotted time period, say a half hour. Then designate a small container or basket for them to put away the devices once the allotted time has passed.
Create tech-free bedrooms. Also recommended by the AAP, keeping technology out of your child’s bedroom will help you monitor use and also encourage more together-time for the family.
Tell us: What works for you? What are your household rules for gadget use and screen time?