Technology has certainly made our lives easier. However, overuse of technology can be very harmful, especially for children. The reality of today’s world is that you cannot live without a computer, smartphone, or internet in your home. This Center For Parenting report estimates that kids and teens between 8 to 28 years spend 44.5 hours a week in front of digital screens.
So, since you cannot isolate yourself or your children from using technology, you can only do the next best thing: limit their internet use. However, before limiting their use, you should know the right time to control the technology usage of your kid.
When to try and control the technology usage of children?
Look out for these signs on your children. If your children start to show these symptoms, you start restricting the usage of technology for them.
- When kids complain that they are unhappy and easily get bored when they cannot use technology.
- When your child starts throwing tantrums and starts resisting harshly whenever you start setting screen time limits on your devices.
- When you begin to see that your kids are spending too much time with screens so that it starts interfering with their sleep, school work, and physical conversations with other individuals.
- When you start realizing that kids are showing strange or unusual behavior. (E.g., an extroverted and easygoing kid suddenly starts becoming introverted)
Once you know when to control the use of technology among your children, you can then follow these proven strategies to control their technology usage and keep them safe.
Ten Steps To Controlling The Usage Of Technology Among Children
1. Have enough knowledge about technology
Most parents today do not understand much about new technology than their children. Children today have access to an unlimited amount of information on technology from the internet. They can use that information to remain updated on the latest technological trends.
As a parent, you have to learn how technology works. You do not need to learn it comprehensively; however, a general understanding is a must. Also, technology changes rapidly. What you learn now may not be useful very soon.
So, you need to ensure that you are constantly updated on the latest technological development so as not to fall behind and let your kid trick you and by[ass your observations.
2. Put your home computers and digital devices in a public setting
Children should not be given private access to the internet. If children are left unmonitored in their use of technology, then there is a high risk of being exposed to its bad effects. Some of them include cyberbullying, pornography, videos related to racism or violence, etc.
As such, your house computer should be in a place where you, as a parent, can walk by and see what’s going on. Make sure your children understand a simple concept “Privacy while using electronic gadgets is a privilege and not a right.”
As for smartphones and similar gadgets, you can ask your child to use them only in the presence of adults. You should not let your kid run off somewhere quiet with smartphones where you cannot monitor what they are doing.
However, as your child grows up, you can release your authority little by little and give them more autonomy in using various digital gadgets.
3. Establish accountability with your children and be a role model
Establishing accountability means holding kids responsible for their actions. Children need to know that they are being watched. This prevents them from overusing technology and inappropriate content on the internet and helps you understand their behavior online.
Check up on your kids often. You can look at their browsing history. If you find them erasing their history, then something must be wrong. So, take action immediately. Your kid needs to understand that accountability is needed when using technology.
You also need to be a role model to your children as your kids will follow you and your activities. If you start getting addicted to your PCs and Smartphones, then it is only natural that your child copies you in doing so.
4. Install an internet filter, firewall, or another form of network protection
Internet filters such as OpenDNS act as a safeguard and prevent access to inappropriate or offensive content. You can choose the degree of filtering based on your child’s age. However, you should also make sure that your child does not bypass these filters with a technical workaround.
If internet filters are not available, you can use a firewall or other similar safeguard protection tools to restrict the access of your home internet network. If you find your child trying to bypass any of the firewall or other restrictions, or are aware of any threats coming from outside your network, take action immediately.
5. Use Parental controls
Parental controls are a way for parents to monitor and control their child’s screen activity. These tools help parents track their kid’s online activity, set up screen time limits, perform location tracking and alerts, filter out inappropriate content from the internet, etc.
To monitor your child’s online activities, you should use parental controls like Fenced.ai, NetNanny, Qustodio, etc. These parental control apps make your job of parenting in this digital age much easier.
6. Set family rules for computers and smartphones
Setting up family rules needs to be done while keeping the maturity level of your child in mind. Children below 5 years should not be on TV, computers, or smartphones because they are not mature and are not responsible enough to handle it.
As a parent, you should set up some ground rules for your family about using technology and a system to implement these rules. You can implement rules such as no smartphones during supper or other family activities. This will also assist you in protecting your family from any scams.
You can also make some rules based on who uses technology most in the house. The one that uses tech most (be it a parent or child) has to do chores like cleaning toilets, mopping floors, walking the dog, etc.
7. Talk to your children about the overuse of technology and its impacts
There are plenty of stories about people who abused technology by overusing them and got into trouble. You can share some of those stories with your kids. Talk to them about how the overuse of the internet in digital devices is harmful to their physical, mental, and psychological health.
Children need to understand the dangers of online predators, cyberbullying, etc., that come with the overuse of the internet. So have conversations about your concerns. You should also listen patiently to what the kids have to say and not just speak to yourself.
Not all the conversations have to be negative, though. There are many positive ways to take advantage of the internet, like learning new programming and design skills, using social media platforms to earn money, etc.
8. Use technology to build relationships with your kids
Today’s children love to communicate with technology. So, you can learn how to use the technology and interact with your children.
You can ask them to teach you about the latest development and features of a certain technology. As they are informed and want to show it off to their parents, they will be more than ready to teach you.
However, always keep in mind that technology can never take the place of personal face-to-face communication with your children.
9. Restrict online spending
Online spending through in-app purchases in games or social media apps has become widespread among children. Children are naive and do not know the value of money, so they splurge their parent’s money online.
As they spend more money on online in-app purchases, they get more ‘would be’ benefits (e.g., an upgrade of a game character), which has no effect in real life. However, it does get kids hooked on, and in return, they start spending more money. Very soon, it becomes a vicious cycle.
The way you can stop this vicious cycle is by restricting how much money your kids can spend online. As you restrict their online spending, they will soon get bored with their tech and do other productive things.
See our article covering the best debit cards for kids
10. Encourage other activities apart from using digital devices
Although the internet holds plenty of advantages for communication, spending time together is still the best. You can engage in other activities besides using tech, like taking your child out for ice cream or sitting on the couch and talking.
Some of the activities may include drawing, taking your kid outside to buy toys, playing physical games, going swimming, hiking, etc.
You can play with those old board games that you have stacked up in a corner. As long as you can keep your children away from an electronic screen, it is fine. Keep your activities fun and entertaining.
Ensure that you do not annoy your kid with their home assignments or make them clean up their rooms whenever they are not on screen. Doing so may instead backfire, and your children will be more likely to go ahead and start playing with their PCs or Smartphones.
To sum up: the overuse of technology by children affects their physical, mental, and social development. So, it is the job of parents to control the usage of technology. Once you feel like your children are overusing technology by observing them, you should take action immediately. We believe that the ten tips mentioned above will be helpful for you.