Let’s face it, technology has changed the way we parent our kids. When I was young, there was no such thing as YouTube, Facebook Twitter, or Instagram. In the late 90s, we had a dial-up modem with blazing speeds of 56k (if we were lucky). With the digital landscape as it is today, limitless content is within reach of any small hands. It’s more important than ever for parents to be educated and proactive with what they allow in front of their children. With everything we have available to us today, it can be scary to become a parent and have to figure out where that fine line has to be drawn. I have two boys – my eldest is six, and my youngest is three. Both of them have already figured out how to navigate our smartphones to use the camera, watch YouTube, and make calls. We’ve since learned to passcode our devices, but my wife and I have also learned that we can’t hide them
away from technology. What we can do, however, is guide them to what
is appropriate for their developing minds.
If you’re anything like us, you have multiple devices in your home. We have a few Kindle Fire’s, Google Home devices, smartphones, a smart television, and the list goes on. My main concern is setting safety guidelines for my boys, and to achieve that, communication is key.
As we allow our boys to use new technology or expand their exposure to it, we also explain the acceptable behavior we expect with those devices. We encourage them to make the right choice but at the same time, we always keep a close eye.
These are my basic rules when allowing kids on our devices.
LIMIT USAGE: Treat it as you would anything else, with moderation. Set a time limit. Kids both need and expect reasonable limits. Toddlers and children ages 2 to 5 should be limited to high-quality content, such as low-intensity educational programming.
SCREEN TIME ISN’T ALONE
TIME: Have your children in a central, highly trafficked area. Kids are less likely to get into something questionable if Mom or Dad could be walking by any moment. It can also be a time for parents to sit and explore the digital activity with the child, giving them the opportunity to ask questions or the child to “teach” you. Co-viewing is still the best option for young children.
- Pinna.fm is a subscription service, but it offers kids ages 3-8 the option of screen-free, ad-free audio streaming. The content includes audiobooks, podcasts, and music. To be perfectly honest, this is one of the best ways to go for getting your child off the blank stares and using their imagination while listening in.
- LevarBurtonKids.com is another subscription service that both educates and informs. Levar Burton of Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation heads up another endeavor to boost reading. There are also videos in his Skybrary that are almost akin to the Mr. Rogers field trip shorts.
- YouTube is a good free location for many types of content, but a word of caution here. I recommend creating a playlist of the content and duration of content you want your kids to see in one sitting. I say this because you never know what will pop-up during your viewing times in the advertisements or the follow-up video. Despite YouTube’s algorithm for YouTube Kids, you should still be present or close by while your children are watching videos. No matter what you choose to do, be aware, be present, and make yourself knowledgeable about the content and devices that you let your kids use.