If you are anything like me when I was in my twenties, you may have found yourself uttering these exact words. Working in the tech industry, my husband and I had felt the full effects of the hold technology had on our lives and had made a vow to raise our kids tech-free (no smartphones, tablets, TV, etc.) until they were well into their teens. As you may have guessed, this vow was made before we had our children and at a time when we were rather disenchanted with smartphone society.
After having our 2 children, we quickly understood that technology itself wasn’t dangerous. Rather, it is the problematic, unhealthy relationships that we form with them that result in negative health consequences. In fact, our kids’ smartphones, when used responsibly, serve to enhance many aspects of their lives. As we were hit with this realisation, my husband and I decided to re-examine how we wanted to raise our kids in this digital world.
When it came down to it, we understood that as with everything in life, balance is essential – the same goes with the number of hours our kids spent on their tiny machines. Here are some of the parenting 411s I have picked up along the way when it came to helping my children develop a healthy relationship with their phones.
1. Protect them from ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’
When I was expecting my first child, I picked up a book by American author Richard Lourve, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit-Disorder, which really left an impression on me. In the book, Lourve uses the phrase, ‘nature-deficit-disorder,’ to describe the negative health consequences that arise as a result of our children spending less time with the natural world. These include myopia (short-sightedness), obesity and Vitamin D deficiency.
The book made me reflect on my own childhood and how much more time I spent playing outdoors with my friends, as compared to kids these days who live dominantly in a digital environment indoors. The benefits of the outdoors on our children’s health are vast and should not be ignored. As parents, it is our responsibility to give our children the best childhood they can have, and this includes experiencing all the benefits nature has to offer.
2. Be a good role model
When my children got to a certain age, they started emulating everything me and my husband did. When I say everything, I mean everything – the good and unfortunately, the bad.
When it came to our smartphone habits, my husband and I made a conscious effort to limit our device use during our ‘sacred family time’ – family meals, gatherings, outings etc. This acted as a signal to our children on when it was appropriate to use their phones and when it wasn’t. We successfully avoided the, “well daddy/mummy uses his/her phone during dinner time,” tantrums and cultivated healthy device habits from a young age. Remember, our children model their behaviour after the environment they grow up in. From their eating habits to the way they walk and talk, our children learn by observing us. Hence, we have the power to mould their behaviour, including their screen habits, simply by setting a good example.
3. Educate them from a young age
When it comes to your child’s online safety, you can never be too safe. From the moment they began to use their devices for schoolwork and entertainment purposes, my husband and I made it a top priority to educate our children on the perils of the digital world, which includes cyberbullying, gaming and screen addiction and phishing. We found that empowering our kids with such knowledge also took some of the pressure to constantly monitor their online activity off us.
As parents, it can be scary to see your children grow up in this digital age fraught with dangers. However, we need to understand that technology also enables them to easily explore our vast world just using their smartphones – something that we didn’t get the chance to do in our childhoods! Here’s where a parental management application can also come in handy – The plano application does just this and more.
Indeed, is our responsibility to facilitate our little ones’ learning and development. Let’s empower them with all the tools needed to blossom in this world!