5 tips on how to encourage safe and healthy technology use

Children having screen time using technologyWhile there is a lot of stigma around screen time for children having a negative impact on their learning, it is absolutely undeniable that technology is an integral part of our society and vastly embedded into our culture.

Similarly to anything else in life, screen time for children can actually be part of a healthy lifestyle if set in moderation and with the encouragement of purposeful, educational and quality content.

There is now a multitude of quality educational apps, programs and tools that can promote learning in a positive and interactive way that you can feel comfortable and confident in allowing your child to engage with.

Technology can be useful in research and education but also as a means of enjoyment and leisure. These are all valid and healthy uses when used responsibly.

Technology has allowed for more opportunities for self-directed learning than ever before. Thanks to the internet, autodidactic learners or those with a thirst for knowledge, have a relatively limitless number of learning resources at their fingertips.

Online educational programs are an example of how technology can assist in educating children outside of a school setting.

Many children are drawn to technology and screens. It is a part of everyday life for many from an increasingly young age. I have found that children with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have an affinity for digital media, and technology can be a good way to engage them in learning.

Technology can help kids

1. Connect and collaborate with others

2. Research and learn

3. Explore their creativity

4. Develop decision-making skills

5. Discover their independence and responsibilities

6. Engage in learning and have fun!

Although technology has many educational benefits, it is important that parents take the necessary steps to protect their kids online. Here are some tips on how to encourage safe and healthy technology use.

5 technology tips to keep kids safe

1. Reduce technology before bed

Try to limit technology in bed or around bedtime. The light produced by devices and overstimulation can both potentially interfere with your child’s sleep.

2. Supervise children online and monitor the material they are accessing

It is important to supervise your child’s exposure to inappropriate content online. Unhealthy use generally comes in the form of accessing age-inappropriate content or overuse. Limit your child’s daily screen time and identify specific locations for internet use within the home; keeping devices in a shared family area.

Restricting use of apps, games, TV shows and movies is the responsibility of parents. It is unlikely that children or teenagers will self-regulate.

Check your child’s privacy settings and internet search limitations, as well as yours.

3. Secure all household devices

Set passcodes and restrictions on all devices (don’t forget smart fridges, gaming consoles and Google Homes!).

Restrict household devices’ search terms and privacy settings, and implement filtering systems. Check who has the ability to share material with your child (e.g. Airdrop).

4. Communicate the importance of online safety

It’s important to model appropriate behaviour and communicate the importance of online safety to help keep kids safe. Sit down and have open conversations with your child about the material they might see online or that someone else might show them. Less is more—have multiple short chats and discussions.

Be open about expectations to create boundaries and to build trust. Discuss consensual relationships and the difference between reality and fantasy (e.g. real life relationships versus pornographic fantasy).

5. Create your own guidelines

While various guidelines around appropriate technology use exist, it is up to each individual family to decide what fits them best.

When considering screen time for your child, make sure you consider how old they are, what the guidelines for recommended daily screen times are, and think about rules and expectations of use that might work for your family.

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