Kids and tech gadgets are inseparable when they are hooked on to them. A lot of parents use devices as a substitute for a nanny since they keep the kids occupied for hours. I’ve been guilty of that too in the past: handing the kids phone or tablet on a long drive or when I’m working from home to keep them quiet.
Effective Learning Tool
Apart from the games and Youtube videos, the kids do end up learning a lot from the internet and apps. Leann, my elder daughter, is interested in historical events. She can recite the dates of the World Wars, when the Titanic sunk and other trivia she’s gathered from researching on the internet. She’s also interested in music, and she likes discovering new music, which she shares with us.
Eileen, the younger one, on the other hand, likes to get on the internet to get inspirations for the drawings she does. Both the kids also love using Duolingo, a language learning app, to learn Spanish & German. Even though these help the kids with the pursuit of knowledge, too much of a good thing is also bad.
Lack of Social Interaction
Leann used to be hooked to phones and tablets when she was younger. Over the years we found that her interactions with people at home, visitors and other kids were decreasing. She was getting into a shell of her own and was always asking for the iPad to pass the time. After a long session, we noticed that she didn’t want to interact much with anyone, and go out anywhere. She threw tantrums when the iPad was taken away from her.
Tiny Screens & Eye Strain
Eileen kept complaining of blurred vision frequently. But when we took her for an eye test, her vision was perfect. When I told the eye doctor about her, complain the first thing she asked was whether Eileen used a phone or tablet a lot.
The doctor said that her vision was getting blurred due to her staring at a small screen for a long time. Her recommendation was to stop giving the phone and tablet to the kids. The doctor advised us that if the kids end up using phones and tablets, each session with a screen should be limited to 30 minutes and also to ensure that the room is well-lit to prevent eyestrain. The doctor explained that until the age of 7, the ability of the eye to focus is still developing. So excessive use of devices can hamper the proper development of the eyes.
Other Development Issues
One other side effect of the kids using gadgets instead of running and playing around, they depend on digital games. This leads to obesity and other problems like attention deficit issues where they can’t seem to concentrate properly.
No Gadget Days
To reduce the usage of gadgets, weekdays at home are designated as No Gadget days, where the tablets are kept away. The only exception is if they need the use of these for any school work. Instead of depending on tech on weekdays, the kids are encouraged to read books, draw and play board games. If the kids want to listen to music, they can use Alexa’s voice-driven service to ask for tunes.
We allow the kids limited use of tablets on weekends for up to 2 hours staggered through the day. They are asked to switch off the devices and take a break after around 30-40 minutes of use.
We also monitor their usage with the help of Parental monitoring apps installed on their devices. These parental apps report on which apps the kids have been using and the amount of time they’ve used the device. They also block access to sites and apps which the kids shouldn’t be accessing. Some of them even allow setting the maximum amount of time the kids can use the device in a day, and automatically block access when the time goes over.
I use Bitdefender’s Parental Advisor since it comes free with my antivirus subscription. Some of the other apps in the market are Norton’s Family, ESET Parental Control & Quostodio. You can take a look at this Parental Control Guide to see how you can enable Parental Control on popular media platforms.
After the initial few months as the kids got used to this new schedule, we had to stand ground to enforce this new set of habits. But this has really helped since our kids are interested in other things and not obessing with tech and gadgets.
They are now trying their hands on story writing, writing songs and helping me in assembling and building with my Raspberry Pi projects.
If you have any tips to share on how you’re managing tech with your kids, leave a comment below.