There are many benefits to using technology, but there are also challenges when it comes to giving your children access to it. For instance, how much screen time is too much? Or how young is too young?
While there are many ways your kids can use and enjoy the Internet, computers, television, video games and cell phones, the most important thing to remember is to monitor their screen time and be aware of what they're viewing and doing. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than one to two hours of total "screen" time per day for children over the age of 2.
Setting rules is a good way to let your children know what your expectations are from the beginning. Posting the rules by the computer or TV is a great reminder to everyone and will help you enforce them. n's is excited to offer a series of programs to help strengthen families in our community. We know that a child's overall health depends on how secure they feel.
TV and video games
Watching too much TV or playing too many video games can have a harmful effect on you and your child. Violence, sexual content and inappropriate language are just a few of the concerns.
Too much TV is strongly linked to obesity because kids are sitting still and tend to snack during this time. They also see commercials that promote fast food and unhealthy, highly processed convenience foods which can lead them to want those foods more.
- Again, setting a daily limit and making sure your children stick to it, is the most important thing you can do to make sure your child isn't overdoing it. Set the example by limiting your own viewing.
- Keep TVs and video games out of bedrooms. Instead, place them in more common areas so that you are aware when and how they are being used.
- Learn how to block certain programming from your TV using the V-chip.
- It is suggested that children under the age of 2 not watch any TV at all because it keeps them from exploring and playing with others.
- Understand and observe TV and video game ratings. They are a quick way to know what kind of content your child could see.
- Talk to your kids about the shows they watch and games they play, and participate with them when you can. It will help you understand your child better and help them feel closer to you.
- Offer fun alternatives to TV and video games. In most cases, kids would prefer to spend time with you playing a board game, dancing around the house or playing something outside. It's a great way to spend quality time with your child and do something good for everyone's mental and physical health.
Did you know? The average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18. Because of this, kids can be desensitized to violence and more prone to aggression.
Cell phones have made life more convenient and help us stay connected to our families and friends. Nearly every adult has one and now our kids are asking for their own phones at very young ages. Every child is different and it's your job to decide when yours is ready for the responsibility of having one. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making this decision:
- Start simple. Show your child the basic functions of the phone and how to make an emergency call. Consider a no-contract phone that can be loaded and reloaded with minutes, as needed. This is a good starter option that your child can use when they are away from you, visiting friends or at sleepovers.
- Keep tabs on how and when the phone is used. Make rules for times and places the phone can and can't be used (i.e., not during homework, dinner or after lights out).
- Teach responsibility by making sure your child understands that a cell phone is not a toy. Explain how each use of the phone has a cost (basic service, texting, downloading games and ringtones).
- Make sure your child is careful when giving out his or her phone number. If they are unsure if they should give their number, tell them to ask for the other person's number instead of giving out their own. Explain that they should never give out the number on the Internet.
- Teach proper phone etiquette. Not only should they answer the phone in a polite manner, it's also important to turn off or silence their phone in many places. Hospitals, movie theaters and restaurants are a few good places to observe this rule.
Internet and computer use
It's hard to imagine what we did before we had computers and the Internet. Many of us work on a computer all day and then come home and use one to stay in touch with friends and family, research information, play games and even shop. But as with any technology, there are pitfalls.
These tools can also open us up to those who try to take advantage or simply cause problems. Unfortunately, our kids are easy targets, so it's vital we teach and watch over them when they use a computer.
- Set a limit for daily use and enforce it. Keep a timer nearby to help keep track.
- Keep the computer in a central location in the house and check in on your child often so you know what he/she is doing on the computer at all times.
- Consider installing parental control software to block unwanted Web sites or activities.
- Learn to use the computer to the best of your abilities so you can keep up with technology and new Web resources.
- If you aren't already familiar with social networking sites, learn more about them. Your kids will want to participate, but these sites may not be as safe as you would think. Most of these networking Web sites have age limits and do not knowingly allow children 13 years or younger to set up accounts.
- Teach your child about the dangers of cyberspace. Make sure they know that they should never give out personal information such as their full name, address or telephone number. Explain that people they meet online are still strangers and should not be trusted.
- Get to know your child's online friends and frequent Web site hangouts.
- Spend time on the Internet with your child, explaining what's acceptable and what's not.
- Talk to your child about what to do if they feel threatened or nervous about an online encounter or they stumble across inappropriate material.
- Know your child's user name and password for each of their online accounts.
- Understand that your child can also access the Internet through an iPod touch, iPhone or other smart phone and through many gaming systems (i.e., Wii™, PlayStation 3® or Xbox 360®).