Looking around the room, I see signs of 21st-century life that I could never have dreamed up as a kid. Things that could only found in sci-fi movies and futuristic literature. You know… because the internet wasn’t around when I was born.
A phone in the palm of my hand.
A Smart TV.
And a tiny portable ipad.
They all seem to captivate the attention of children. In fact, my almost 2-year-old already has 2 apps on the iPad mastered and has changed critical settings on my phone with ease.
Our children are exposed to more and have access to more at an earlier age than ever before. Therefore as parents, it’s harder than ever to protect even our babies when using technology. When I think about my oldest, who is now starting kindergarten, I realize both the possibilities and the potential tragedies of her screen time use, even for educational purposes.
Why we have to discuss safety in the digital age to young kids
Unfortunately, though the internet and technological advancements open so many doors for our children, they also pose problems: everything from sight and vision issues to stumbling into inappropriate content.
And because parents are even giving ipads and cell phone to babies, it’s honestly never too early to start talking about safe and appropriate use of phones and tablets.
Starting the conversation early makes it easier to maintain open, honest communication about how our kids use the internet and technology. In fact, many parents find the idea of having the technology talk overwhelming because they don’t know what topics to even begin to cover, but when we simply chat about screen time being a treat and devices needing care to the youngest little ears, it opens the door to more serious topics later on.
Creating screen time rules to keep our kids safe using technology
In the process of sitting down with my oldest, now starting homeschool kindergarten, I realized there were some great lessons that could stem from creating a screen time and device care contract.
National PTA and LifeLock created The Smart Talk—a free, online tool—to help families set ground rules for technology use and have open, ongoing conversations about online safety and responsibility. It is something families of all ages can use to even revisit as it continues to evolve as kids age and technology also change.
And for anything that wasn’t applicable to my daughter because of age or circumstance, I just didn’t click it so it wouldn’t show up in our final contract.
Because the contract creator allowed both my daughter and I to pick and chose what was appropriate for our family and for her specific age, I was able to set certain standards our family expects of her.
Because she’s young, I didn’t have to discuss texting currently, because she doesn’t have access to it currently. However, I was able to add in certain parameters like not playing games when a sibling is asleep or that she could use the iPad to call family on FaceTime.
Read more on keeping kids technologically literate but not dependent.
We also discussed that accidents do happen and if she broke or lost a device that she would have to earn back the privilege of a new one, giving up her allowance and treats for a set amount of time.
In teaching time, numbers, and the like, this is just another important aspect of using technology. We can get carried away very easily. But if the tablet stop working, isn’t plugged in, or the timer goes off it’s on her.
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Because creating a contract is something that we have done together, it’s in writing, and it’s posted where the whole family can see it, when a question or problem arises, it’s very easy to revisit what was discussed and hold her accountable for her actions.
Read about teaching toddlers and preschoolers consequences.
As our kids get older, there are more and more options for apps to purchase and games to play. While of course, we would be happy to shell out the money for an educational app that is used as a part of our curriculum or buy accessories like Tiggly Words, there are others that are less necessary.
So in filling out the contract together, we discussed how if there was something my daughter wanted to purchase on or for the iPad, it would be from her own money or it would be earned by completing tasks.
Personal & Family Safety
My husband was apparently the child growing up that would declare his name, phone number, and street address to any given stranger. So it’s probably a great thing he didn’t have the sort fo access that our kids do.
Opening the door to explain that we don’t give out family information to any and everyone is important and sharing it in any way whether on a computer or not isn’t safe… including taking pictures of the front of our house.
More resources for using technology with your kids
- 10+ free educational apps on Amazon for your kindergartener
- How we share a family iPad
- Great learning websites for kids
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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!