It’s inevitable that your kids will be introduced to technology–and in our current media consumption climate, it’s usually sooner rather than later. Parents might have many questions about how to first introduce their kids to technology, and how to keep them safe. Theresa Desuyo, digital family expert at Qustodio, and Dr. Nicole Beurkens, who also works with Qustodio, are here with tips on how to manage your kid’s screen time, how to protect them from all the harmful content they can find online, and how to keep the conversation going with your older kids so they know you have their best interests at heart.
Expose kids to technology based on their age and maturity level.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you do not introduce your kids to any technology before they turn two years old. After that, they might be introduced to technology through devices used in school. Once your child turns four, think about her recreational screen time outside of school, Dr. Beurkens says–she should not be using technology for more than 2 hours per day, and you should make sure she is watching high-quality, appropriate content. Young children should always use devices in the company of an adult. As your child gets older, and it might be time for a cell phone or laptop, “parents should determine when their child is ready for their own device depending on their level of responsibility and maturity, behavior and social functioning, and development level,” Desuyo says.
Protect your children online by setting parental controls and establishing rules for how they use their devices.
Kids can get into a lot of trouble online between social media, potentially dangerous viral trends, cyberbullies, online predators, and groomers. Parents should warn kids about the unexpected realities of being online, Desuyo says, and “have parental controls that limit dangerous kinds of things kids are getting into, periodically sitting down and looking at the kinds of things kids are doing,” Beurkens says. Parental controls will restrict your child from accessing certain harmful things, and you can control the amount of restriction you’re enforcing at any time.
Besides setting daytime screen time limits, never allow kids to keep their devices in their bedrooms at night, Beurkens says–“nothing good is happening for kids on the internet in the middle of the night.”
Maintain open communication with your kids about why you’re controlling what they can see online.
Kids might get frustrated when they can’t access a favorite YouTube video because of parental controls, or get nervous when you go to look at their search history. Beurkens and Desuyo both advocate for maintaining open communication with your kids about what you’re doing. Sit down and go through their online history with them, just to see what they’ve been up to. Continually talk to them about the importance of their digital footprint (this is especially important for teenagers). Talk through the positive aspects of parent controls to help teens avoid harming their image, hurting their opportunities to get into college, and more. “A parent-child relationship is strongest when built on trust and open communication—it’s the best parental control you can have!” Desuyo says.
“When you give kids devices, it’s our responsibility to make sure that they’re safe,” Beurkens adds. “The best mode of communication is to talk with kids about why we’re setting limits. Help them understand that we set limits because it’s our job as parents to keep them safe and healthy.”