I love technological gadgets…sort of.
I’m a big fan of anything that can make my life just a little easier, like paying a bill with one click. But then those very same gadgets can take over our lives. And it’s no different for our kids. There are too many screens competing for their attention, and if we don’t set boundaries now, they will be slaves to their gadgets and their cute little imaginative selves will be lost to children who whine for more TV.
Here are a few tips to keep technology in check with the kids. What would you add to this list?
This post is sponsored by Sprite Labs. All ideas and opinions are 100% mine. See my disclosure statement for more information.
Make Technology Work for You
Need 10 minutes to jump in the shower? Use Netflix. Do you want to be able to actually pay attention to your pediatrician at your child’s well baby visit? Bring the LeapPad. But the key here is that we don’t want to do this all day. Did you know that the average child is in front of a screen for 7 hours a day? I don’t want that to be my kids.
Figure out your stress points and crazy times of the day and plan screen time for only those parts of the day rather than permitting unlimited access to TV shows and gizmos. In my recent series on toy organization, you might have noticed that most of our toys involve creative play, like dress-up, cars, or blocks. My kids spend most of their day engaged in free & creative play, reading books, or doing household tasks with me. That said, I’m sure our doctors think my kids use gadgets all the time at home, because my kids watched Micky Mouse during every single one of my OB visits during my last pregnancy, but that’s OK. I’m making it work for me, and the kids aren’t watching shows the rest of the day. And you read that right–I brought a 1 & 3 year old to all of my OB visits!
Keep the guidelines in mind: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours of screen time a day for children over the age of two. Studies show that the biggest predictor of childhood obesity is whether or not a child has a TV in their bedroom.
Set Rules for Usage
Here’s what works for us: My kids watch a couple of shows via Netflix every morning while I get ready for the day (we don’t do cable). I’m not a morning person and this helps me out quite a bit. Otherwise, they don’t watch any TV. The biggest challenge with this approach is that it means mom doesn’t get a ton of breaks during the day. As I’m cleaning and doing other things around the house, I’m settling arguments and helping the kids with toys because they’re building castles or playing pirates and unicorns. It makes tasks take longer, but the trade off is worth it. My kids know how to play creatively and imaginatively because they don’t get a ton of TV time.
The only time that their “gadgets” are permitted is after naptime, usually during dinner prep. Again, I’m making it work for me. And they are only allowed a certain amount of time to play on them. The caveat to that rule is that I don’t automatically give them their gadgets after nap/rest time. If they think about it, they can ask and I’ll probably say yes. But if they get busy playing with each other or I pull out play dough to keep them busy while I cook, then they won’t play with their gadgets on that particular day.Basically, my kids play with their LeapPads & Nabi (a children’s tablet) about 3 or 4 times a week at the most. And they don’t miss them. A Leap Pad is not as fun as putting a blanket on your back while you pretend to be a turtle.
We also don’t let babies watch TV, no matter how “educational” the makers of those baby shows say they are. Did you know Baby Einstein recalled all of their children’s programs a while back? No TV show is healthy for a baby, and since they had marketed their shows as such, they felt they had to recall them, in the interest of honesty.
You can say no to gadgets. In our family, I’ve noticed that grandparents are usually the ones who want my kids to have the latest and greatest gadgets. I haven’t chosen to say “no” to these gifts, but I’ve opted to set firm limits instead. Hopefully the grandparents are OK with the fact that my kids don’t use the fancy gadgets they bought for them all the time.
My “big kids” stayed busy while I took the baby into the doctor for a croup visit this week.
Limit the Children’s Apps on Your Smart Phone
I usually only have one or two apps for the kids on my smart phone, but sometimes I have zero. Because I don’t usually have apps, my kids don’t beg to play with my phone.
Currently, the only children’s app I have is Talking Anya, which my children love. It’s a free app that’s available for both ipads and iphones. My kids are crazy for it and get a kick out of listening to how she repeats the funny things they say. You can follow Talking Anya on Facebook. My oldest two kids spent 20 minutes playing with the Talking Anya app while I cooked dinner a few nights ago (see rule #1!). They are in love with the silliness and fun.
We also like apps that teach kids letters or numbers. Educational is always good, but I’m not going to rely on an app to teach my kid anything. It’s just a small fun thing they can use to reinforce what we’re doing in school.
The main reason I limit the apps is that I don’t want to get in the habit of handing my kid my phone anytime they are driving me crazy. Instead, I’d rather talk with them and correct their misbehavior rather than simply pacify them.
Consider Using Technology as a Reward
We’re experimenting with this idea right now. My daughter’s tablet, the Nabi, has books on it and she is all about reading right now. This week, we have offered her this idea. At bed time, if her room is cleaned and she has obeyed us during the usual nightly bedtime routine, then she can have ten minutes of extra reading time after she goes to bed. Ten minutes later, we’ll take the Nabi and turn off her lamp. Notice that we’re limiting her to reading. No games, no videos, just books. And of course, you can always take away technology as a consequence for misbehavior.
If mommy and daddy are living on their computer, tablet, phone, or laptop, then guess what? The kids will want to also. We set the example for our kids. Gadgets are wonderful tools, but they’re just that–tools. They don’t replace good teaching, training, and connection with family.
Ignore all of the above if you have a new baby in the house.
Well, not entirely, but try not to feel too guilty if the kids are watching a little too much Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or Super Why while you’re taking a morning nap. It’s exhausting to wake up every 2-3 hours to feed your baby, but it’s important work you’re doing. You can always get them out of the habit of watching too much TV in a few months, when you’re settled into a routine and (hopefully) sleeping a little better. There is grace. If you’re in a tough season, use the tools more than you’d like. Don’t let this post or others make you feel guilty. Embrace grace and set goals for the future.
What would you add to this list? How do you use technology wisely at your house? Are you trying to use technology less in your home?