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Four Steps to Safely Introducing Technology to Children

Sherelle is a young mom to an energetic little guy who she used these techniques with.

We’re living in a time when technology is a vital part of life. Unless you are living off-grid and completely separate from civilization, you will come into contact with devices every single day. As time goes by, advanced technology becomes much more accessible to the everyday person. It’s therefore important that our children are familiar and comfortable with technology.

The use of technology can be beneficial to children in many ways. Having access to various devices can aid in developing a child’s language, enable education, help improve hand-eye coordination, and allow children to enhance their imagination and problem-solving skills. However, despite the benefits of technology, it can also be very harmful to children if it isn’t used correctly.

Your child's relationship to technology will depend on how you’ve introduced them to the digital world. In order for your child to have a healthy relationship with technology and avoid its potentially harmful effects, here are four ways to safely introduce your young child to technology:

  1. Start slowly
  2. Provide quality devices and activities
  3. Set (and enforce) clear boundaries
  4. Be involved
The relationship that your child has with technology will depend on how you’ve chosen to introduce them to the digital world.

The relationship that your child has with technology will depend on how you’ve chosen to introduce them to the digital world.

1. Start Slowly

Whether it’s phones, televisions, or tablet-based toys, our children are surrounded by technology from a tender age. Although it’s important that children are educated on how to use these devices, it’s crucial that parents ensure that we are cautious when introducing our children to various technological devices.

At what age is a child ready for screen-based technologies?

According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, children under the age of eighteen months old should not be introduced to screen-based media outside of video chatting. They went on to indicate that children between eighteen months to five years old should be limited to no more than one hour of high-quality programming and should be supervised by parents or guardians.

We all want the best for our kids, and that has to extend to their relationship with technology. For infants, it’s important to limit their exposure to devices as much as possible, but from the age of two, it’s encouraged to allow children to have limited, supervised access to high-quality content while teaching them about the benefits and risks of technology in age-appropriate ways.

What are the dangers of too much screen time?

I know from personal experience the temptation as a parent to allow your child to watch cartoons on the television or tablet to allow us the opportunity to get things done without being interrupted. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, an excessive amount of screen time—as well as exposure to poor-quality programming—has been linked to obesity, attention and behavior problems, and delays in social skills and language.

2. Provide Quality Devices and Activities

There are so many different devices and tools out there which could be beneficial to a child’s development. What’s important is that we take the time to research and provide our children with the best-quality resources.

Device versus content

Once your child has reached an age where it is safe to introduce them to technology, ensure that you aren’t simply allowing them access to poor-quality content. Whether you choose to provide your child with a computer, tablet, phone, or a device made specifically for children, ensure that it has access to high-quality content that will both educate and entertain.

Videos and games: what to look for

Although it may seem like a good idea to allow your child to simply view educational videos, the bright colors and fast-paced nature of these programs may cause more harm than good. Interactive games and activities that allow your child to be engaged rather than mindlessly clicking or swiping are the best options.

The importance of ad-free content

Additionally, it’s important that we ensure that the games and apps children have access to are free of any advertisements. Most young children, especially those who are just beginning to use technology, would find it difficult to differentiate between the game that they are playing and the ads featured on the site or app. Additionally, you are unable to monitor and or filter the videos they see when the ads pop up on the screen. If you are able to afford it, ensure that you opt for the ad-free versions of apps or avoid the apps that are plagued with ads altogether.

Pre-viewing all content

The easiest way to ensure that the media your child is consuming is the best quality for your child’s age is by previewing all of the programs and games that you introduce your child to. When I first introduced my son to a tablet, I spent hours playing different games and previewing videos prior to allowing him use of the device. This allowed me the opportunity to vet the media my son would be viewing.

Interactive games and activities that allow your child to be engaged rather than mindlessly clicking or swiping are the best options.

Interactive games and activities that allow your child to be engaged rather than mindlessly clicking or swiping are the best options.

3. Set Clear Boundaries and Enforce Them

Technology, and more specifically, the internet, exposes children to a world of information that they had not known existed. There are so many harmful things on the internet that are extremely easily accessible to children. Precaution is necessary to protect your child from being exposed to the wrong things at a young age. If you establish clear boundaries when introducing your child to technology, you will realize that it is easier for that child to respect the boundaries that you set.

Setting screen time limits

The recommended amount of screen time for a child between the ages of 2-5 is one hour of high-quality content per day. It may not be easy to take away a device from a small child who is enjoying their screen time. However, children are teachable. If you enforce the one-hour rule, your child will understand and accept that these are the rules. As your child gets older, you will be able to adjust the amount of access they have to their devices but always ensure that they are aware of the screen time rules.

Using parental controls

Additionally, parental controls and locks can be utilized to ensure that the content your child has access to is designed for their age group. Children are so much smarter than we realize. Once you allow them access to a device, they will explore and toy with it until they understand how to use it on their own (and sometimes, they will pick up little tricks that we didn't know existed). It’s important that there is some form of security in place to ensure that as your child learns and grows, they will still be protected in the moments when you aren’t using the device with them.

Following through on rules and limits

Don’t be afraid to enforce the rules. If your child refuses to respect the boundaries that you have set, don’t hesitate to take action. When my son was younger, I realized one morning that he would sneakily get up before everyone else to play games on his tablet before school. The solution was simple—he was no longer allowed to keep his device in his bedroom. Now, I no longer have that issue with him because he understands that I’m ready and willing to enforce the rules that I have put in place to protect him.

4. Be Involved

Play an active role in introducing your child to technology. No one out there wants to protect your child more than you do, and the best way to do this is by being present. Taking part in your child’s online activities allows you to view what they are doing and engage with them about the content that they see.

Be a good role model

Taking an active role in introducing your child to technology will also allow them to pattern after the habits that they see in you. If you’ve read my article on How to Raise a Self-Confident Child, you know that I believe in parents being role models to their kids. Children, especially the little ones, love to copy their parents and do the things they see them do. If you display unhealthy digital habits in the presence of your child, they will think it’s appropriate to do the same.

Preschool and elementary school-aged children

Until your child is about five years old, they will be much more receptive to the information that they see and hear. It’s crucial that parents monitor the things young children are exposed to. It’s recommended that parents who introduce their child to technology between the ages of 18-24 months old avoid solo use of technology altogether.

As your child gets older. . .

As your child gets older, it won’t be possible to sit and observe their every action online. Therefore, there must be an open line of communication between parents and children about their use of technology. Sometimes as parents, we try to shield our children from things at home without realizing that they interact with their friends and peers whose parents may not be as conscientious. Teach your children about online safety, and don’t be afraid to explain to them exactly what type of content is off-limits to them.

Taking part in your child’s online activities allows you the opportunity to view what they are doing while they use their devices as well as discuss the content that they see.

Taking part in your child’s online activities allows you the opportunity to view what they are doing while they use their devices as well as discuss the content that they see.

In conclusion, we are living in a digital age and it’s important that children are introduced and allowed access to technology from a young age. Whilst there are many positives to introducing a young child to technology, there are also many downsides. In order to ensure that your child is introduced to technology in a healthy way, I suggest that you start slowly to ensure that the steps you take are age appropriate as well as provide quality devices and activities to ensure your child is only allowed access to the best quality content. Additionally, you should set clear boundaries and enforce them, being sure to adjust these as your child gets older. Finally, be involved every step of the way in order to be sure that your child is using their device in a healthy way.

Sources

Children and Technology: Positive and Negative Effects | Maryville Online

Digital guidelines: Promoting healthy technology use for children

Screen time and children: How to guide your child - Mayo Clinic

Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world - PMC


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Sherelle Timothy