More ‘offline’ family time spurs responsible use of technology among children

Technology and innovation are playing growing roles in children’s development, but parents should watch their digital use and establish boundaries from a young age.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 February, 2018, 11:36am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 5:38pm

Parenting in the fast-changing digital world is a popular topic among many parents and also one that many find challenging. Parents often ask: “How can I manage my child’s use of technology in a world where social media is part of modern culture?” They also ask: “Should my child have unlimited use of technology?”

These queries lead to more questions such as: “Have I lost control?”

The answer is no, parents have not lost control, or the right to control their child’s use of technology. What we should be asking is: “In a digital world how do we manage its use?”

One only has to look at the business world to realise that innovation and creativity lead to opportunity. It is also one of the reasons that schools should focus on innovation as a key component of the curriculum.

However, digital technology can also provide a child with stimulation that is repetitive and does not teach them anything new. It is merely a way of keeping the brain occupied. I suggest parents approach this territory with caution.

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I am often asked how to exert control as a parent, and although I am reluctant to advise on parenting skills, I do offer some thoughts. At the age of about two, children start challenging boundaries.

So even at this stage it is important to establish boundaries about the responsible use of technology.

I doubt that it is beneficial to give children mobile phones or an iPad at an early age, just to keep them occupied. This “training” will stay with them for a considerable length of time and can lead to compulsive behaviours.

Families must also consider how they structure their “offline” time together. Does the family sit down together for a meal every day and engage in conversation? Be wary of fast meals that then allow children to leave the room to go and play games on their computers.

To build valuable offline time together you can incorporate board games into the family routine as they lead to challenge, laughter and understanding. Children enjoy them and they can build family cohesion.

You can’t keep children from using technology but as parents it is important to stay in the know about what our children are doing online
Malcolm Kay

As parents it is important to maintain an appropriate level of control, and this includes technology. Do not allow the use of technology in closed spaces, for example in children’s bedrooms. Make sure the use of digital technology is in an open space and that you have the culture of “no secrets in our family”. You can’t keep children from using technology, but as parents it is important to stay in the know about what our children are doing online.

There are many positive aspects of the use of technology. The key is to recognise them and support them in a controlled way. Teaching children responsible use from a very early age is the key.​