Digital technology is all around us. Unless you are going to commit to an Amish lifestyle, it is probably best to accept this and develop strategies to teach your child the proper use of electronics and the Internet. Many children in America use computers and tablets in school, Internet-enabled video games at home, and smartphones everywhere else. The benefits and responsibility of using tech is dependent on the age and maturity of your child. You would not hand the car keys to your seven year old.
Starting Them Out Right
Between the ages of 3 and 5 the average child will begin to test her control over her environment, founder of developmental psychology Erik Erikson tells us. This is also the time when children develop speech in order to influence things around them. "Yes" and "no" become very powerful words, as do the types of foods and the color preferences. These are all ways that a child exerts an effect on the thing around her.
Researchers show that digital technology can increase the abilities of a child in these areas. Since digital networks are so robust in the United States, most children have access to learning games on a parent’s smartphone or tablet. The games do not need to be specifically educational at this level. Even free games like Temple Run and Candy Crush demonstrate cause and effect to a small child.
The Balancing Act
The use of digital media and electronic communication is bad for the health of teens and pre-teens, notes Science Direct. It is also good for them, according to a study posted by Brock University. Too much technology leads to obesity and attention deficits. When used properly, technologies like social media improve reading skills and self-esteem. This is the tight rope that parents and children need to walk. Setting limits on use is one way to maintain balance. An hour a day of video game time is plenty for anyone. For pre-teens, the great outdoors is still a viable and recommended alternative. At high school level, school work should take priority over non-academic computer time. Dinner time also needs to be a tech free zone. By setting and maintaining these rules, we teach our children to have healthy boundaries in all domains of their lives.
Become The Expert
If you still have a flip phone and think Facebook is a waste of time then it is not your child that needs to be raised in this digital world. It is you. The reality is that your child will use computers and tablets in school. Not understanding them will place your child at a distinct disadvantage. The best way to demonstrate the importance of digital literacy is by leading.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair suggests the computer has become the new childhood playground. If this is true then a parent needs to know how the child is playing and with whom. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this without getting sand in your shoes. If you simply have not had time to indulge in digital media, make the time. If you are a technophobe then, for your child’s sake, find ways to overcome your trepidations. Take an online tutorial. Better yet, have your child teach you. This way you can learn while bonding in the new cyber play area.