Let’s face it. Technology is now a way of life for families. Whether your kids are stuck at home for a few weeks or just for a few rainy days, technology is always going to be something they’ll reach for to entertain themselves. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; however, there should always be a balance of technology, especially for kids.
Some families choose to restrict screen time. While other families tend to be more lenient when it comes to tech. For our family, we agree that technology can offer some positive benefits for our kids.1 For instance, learning and using technology offers kids:
- a tool for learning
- better access to learning opportunities
- it can be used to strengthen relationships with far-away friends and family
- it can be a way for children, peers and parents to learn and interact together
However, there are also some negative effects of technology for kids. This doesn’t mean that we have to keep our kids away from technology, necessarily. But it does mean that there should be limits, or a balance, to when and how much tech they consume. Here are some ways you can help your kids find that balance with technology when they’re quarantined these next few weeks.
4 Negative Effects of Technology and How to Balance Them
1. Relationships and Social Skills Issues
When kids become addicted to their phones and other devices or social media networks, they don’t spend enough time with their family and/or friends. This can weaken the bond between parent and child.
It’s crucial to have time limits on technology – in our house, our 4 year old may be on the iPad multiple times a day but for 10 minutes at a time, but other times he’s on the iPad twice a day for 30 minutes each time. Again, balancing technology is key.
Limiting your kids’ screen time and putting an emphasis on connecting with the people around them instead probably won’t be your child’s favorite suggestion. But it could do him a world of good. But also keep in mind that, right now, technology may be the only way for them to connect to friends and family outside of your home. So keep that in mind when setting your daily limits.
2. Health Issues
Kids usually do mindless snacking while watching the iPad or TV. And if they are only watching screens and not getting any physical activity, this can lead to unhealthy weight gain. A road that should be avoided at all costs to ensure the optimal health of our kids and to keep their immune systems strong.
In our home we don’t believe in limiting food for our son. He’s a growing boy and he can eat A LOT. He always eats his breakfast, lunch and dinner so we know all his snacks are not getting in the way of his main meals. (If it’s right before a meal then yes, we will tell him to wait.)
Instead of saying no to another snack, we just serve healthy snacks which fuel his little body with nutrition. So he does snack sometimes while watching the iPad, but we have a rule of no eating in the living room so watching TV never entails a snack (except at night we may have apple slices after dinner as a family). Our favorite healthy snacks are:
- Snow Snap Peas
- Apple Slices
- Vanilla Greek Yogurt
- Chickpea Puffs
- Sugar-Free Applesauce
- Cucumber and Bell Pepper Slices
3. Browsing Online Can be Dangerous
The internet is a blessing and at the same time it’s a place where kids can literally search for and find anything. However, they don’t even have to be searching for anything to run into something they shouldn’t. In fact, 70% of children aged between 7-18 have accidentally stumbled across pornography online.2 And it usually happened when they where doing internet searches for a homework assignment.
To help prevent your kid from stumbling upon bad content, try practicing these safety measures:
- Turn on parental controls.
- Give a phone with no internet access to younger kids.
- Have the passwords to every device.
- Have kids use iPads, phones, and computers out in the open around family so at any time you can peek over and see what they are doing.
- No computers in their rooms. It’s best to set up a homework computer station in a public area of the home.
Even with the parental controls on, I always look at what my 4 year old is watching. Most of it is safe and educational, but my son loves to watch kids playing with toys and doing make believe so I always double check these videos. Sometimes Mortal Kombat videos pop up, for example. We do not let him watch these due to the violence. Just make sure you are monitoring what your children are watching.
4. Mobile Devices Can Affect Sleep
We all know that good, healthy sleep is crucial for kids. I was shocked to learn that 68% of kids that have a mobile device admit that they keep their phone within reach at night.3 This is worrisome to researchers who know that there is a connection between mobile device use at night and poor sleep.
In our home we strongly believe that the bedroom is a sleep sanctuary and no devices are to be used in our son’s bedroom. We even limit screen time before bed a little further by requiring screens to be put away an hour before bed. Instead we focus on doing calming activities that hour before bedtime like playing quiet games or reading books. We find it really helps our son to wind down and prepare his body for a good night’s rest.
As I stated before, technology can have some great benefits for kids. Especially now, technology is quite helpful during these unprecedented times with Covid-19 and the resulting quarantine. Everything from school, book clubs, playdates, friend hangouts, doctor appointments, concerts, and more are being done virtually right now. Even so, there needs to be a balance of technology for our kids and by setting some limits, you can help them to enjoy the benefits without inviting some of the negative effects.