Our children are being born in to a world which is, technologically at least, completely different to what we knew as children, even as teenagers and whilst technology can bring with it an array of solutions to help make our everyday lives easier, the impact this exposure has on our children needs to be considered carefully.
Smartphones are now the norm and which of us hasn't used a smartphone game, app or streaming service to keep a child entertained in a waiting room, at the restaurant or on the plane.
Many toddlers of 2-3 years old are even able to navigate around on smartphones and tablets to access these apps, games and cartoons for themselves!! (KidooLand do NOT recommend this before 4 years old - please see our guidelines in our Boost Your English course.)
As parents, it is for us to consider the longterm impact of technology use on our children. Even experts can't agree on the longterm impact of technology usage on children or what a good 'family technology policy' might look like with conflicting reports appearing frequently in the media.
Each family is different and so parents need to reflect on their individual situations in order to find a solution that works for their entire family. The key perhaps is in the fact that for any such policy to work, it must work for the entire family - children's views should be considered and their opinion sourced. By being included in the creation of a family technology policy, they will be more likely to help ensure it's success.
Here are a few ideas of things families could consider when thinking about their own technologu policy:
1.) How many devices does your household actually own?
You may be surprised by the sheer number of devices that your family possesses. A smartphone each? how many laptops? how many games consoles? don't forget portable games consoles, kindles too! Any smart TVs in the house that you can use to access the internet?? Include in this list any professional laptops and telephones that get brought home too.
2.) Have a family meeting to discuss your family's use of technology & ask if anyone has any thoughts about technology and screen time.
Schools often run awareness programmes so your children may have some great ideas about this already!
Children may also have some opinions about parental technology usage at home
- are you guilty of taking work calls at home?
checking work emails??
Do children prioritise screentime before homework and chores?
How much screentime does each family member want ideally? Why? When?
Also note at this point any professional or academic obligations which could impact a technology policy.
Do you need to be immediately reachable by telephone or email for work at specific times? Perhaps you work from home? Do the children require internet access to complete homework assignments?
At this point, it is important not to judge, simply to collect as much "data" (i.e. opinions, requirements and ideas) as possible.
3.) What are your "technology goals" as a family?
Be realistic! What do you want to achieve as a family? During the family meeting was the overall feeling that a bit of technology free time would be good for everyone?? Probably! Here are a few ideas about how families can get to grips with technology in a positive and proactive way:
- No tech at the meal table.
This is an easy rule to implement and the benefits of sitting down together to share a meal, uninterrupted, are enormous!
- No tech after 20h00.
Whilst experts can't seem to agree on much, they do agree that limiting screentime at night and in the hour before going to bed promotes healthier sleep patterns! Implement a cut off time for tech/screentime. It may be slightly different for children vs. teens vs. adults.
- Have a communal phone basket.
Children and teens in particular can have a huge fear of missing out and may be tempted to check their phones overnight. Having a phone basket where phones are kept overnight can help reduce overnight tech useage.
- Schedule clear times for legitimate activities (work, homework, etc.) to take place, stress free and guilt-free.
This is so important for children and adults alike. We need internet access, we need to be able to access our emails so creating scheduled time when these activities can be done, guilt-free, is essential to the overall and longterm success of any kind of family technology policy. You can also agree on a suitable amount of recreational technology / screen time and schedule this in. This time can still be dependent on homework and chores having been done prior, but by agreeing expectations and rules beforehand, it can avoid unnecessary conflict and disappointment.
- Embrace your children's online world.
The online world is constantly changing and evolving and it is only by talking to our children freely and openly that we will know how they are using technology at any given time. Show them that you love technology too and that you appreciate the advantages that it can bring us. Join in with some of their games - you may not particularly like first person shooter games like Call of Duty and you may be terrible at them, but your children will love introducing and sharing their world with you.
Good luck ;-) For now KidooLand remains fairly low tech so that you can be sure there is some time for the children to be screen free, but we are getting pressure from parents and educators to bring more into the classroom. We will do this as always with extreme care .. watch this space.