Establishing Good Digital Habits for Kids

As adults, we are sur­round­ed by tech­nol­o­gy almost every hour of the day. We rely on it to pow­er our homes, enter­tain us, man­age our cal­en­dars, and help us stay con­nect­ed to our per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al con­tacts. But what about the tech­nol­o­gy habits of our children?

Thanks to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of con­nect­ed devices, kids’ tech­nol­o­gy habits are much dif­fer­ent than they were when most of us were chil­dren. Where­as tech­nol­o­gy has only become engrained in every­day life over the past few decades for adults, chil­dren are exposed to it prac­ti­cal­ly from birth. 

Accord­ing to a 2019 Com­mon Sense Media cen­sus, 53% of kids have their own smart­phone by the time they turn 11, and those same chil­dren aver­age just under five hours of screen time per day.

It’s impor­tant to teach chil­dren at a young age about online respon­si­bil­i­ty and how to estab­lish healthy rela­tion­ships with tech­nol­o­gy. Since chil­dren take cues from their par­ents and care­givers, the biggest step in help­ing chil­dren use tech­nol­o­gy wise­ly is to mod­el good habits and behav­iors ourselves.

Tech­nol­o­gy shouldn’t inter­fere or detract from day-to-day life for chil­dren or adults. By hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions ear­ly and estab­lish­ing rules and parental con­trols when kids are young, you’ll help pre­vent bad habits from form­ing and mis­use of tech­nol­o­gy by your kids as they get older.

Here are a few best prac­tices to estab­lish healthy tech­nol­o­gy habits early.

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Quality screen time for kids.

Set Tech-Free Zones and Mandatory Downtime

Teach your chil­dren that screen time is a priv­i­lege, meant to be used respon­si­bly and only at appro­pri­ate times. Estab­lish bound­aries ear­ly on about when devices can be used and when they can’t. Cre­ate a no-tech­nol­o­gy rule for meal­times and oth­er activ­i­ties where the focus should be on inter­per­son­al expe­ri­ences and build­ing rela­tion­ships, friend­ships and social skills.

Research has shown that the use of smart­phones and oth­er devices can also inter­fere with sleep habits and the qual­i­ty of rest. Turn off your child’s device and take it away at least thir­ty min­utes before bedtime.

Set­ting lim­its on how and when tech­nol­o­gy is allowed to be used will help fos­ter social skills and pro­tect your child’s rest and healthy devel­op­ment. Bound­aries offer a cer­tain kind of free­dom for chil­dren by cre­at­ing a com­fort­able rou­tine and clear­ly stat­ing what is expect­ed. Pro­tect­ing your child’s dig­i­tal well­be­ing isn’t restric­tive; it’s one of the great­est kind­ness­es you can show them.

Find the Proper Balance

It’s crit­i­cal to set age-appro­pri­ate parental con­trols even before your child uses a device for the first time. As chil­dren have access to tech­nol­o­gy at ear­li­er ages, man­u­fac­tur­ers have rec­og­nized the need to help par­ents mon­i­tor how kids are using devices.

Apple, for exam­ple, offers fea­tures like Screen Time, to set lim­its on how much time chil­dren are allowed to spend online and on which web­sites and apps. Oth­er fea­tures like Down­time,” help enforce screen-free meal­times and bedtimes.

We’ve put togeth­er a guide that explains the lat­est parental con­trols for your Apple or Android devices. Know the fea­tures that are avail­able to you and how to use them to pro­tect your children.

As you decide what parental con­trols and restric­tions best fit your house­hold, find a healthy bal­ance between let­ting your chil­dren enjoy tech­nol­o­gy for its edu­ca­tion­al and enter­tain­ment val­ue, and teach­ing them moderation.

Most kids want what feels for­bid­den,” so being over­ly restric­tive or instill­ing fears about the Inter­net may back­fire and assist in cre­at­ing the poor dig­i­tal habits you’re try­ing to avoid in the first place.

Teach Good Online Behavior

You may have already had dis­cus­sions about bul­ly­ing with your child. It’s not just an issue that is lim­it­ed to the play­ground or phys­i­cal spaces, though. Cyber­bul­ly­ing has become a con­cern for chil­dren (and adults) of all ages. In fact, 15% of chil­dren report being the vic­tim of at least one cyber­bul­ly­ing incident.

Talk to your chil­dren about pos­i­tive dig­i­tal inter­ac­tions. Ask them if they’ve ever felt bul­lied online. By encour­ag­ing them to come to you with ques­tions or doubts, they’ll be more like­ly to open up if they are bul­lied, and to inform you if they see some­one else being mis­treat­ed online.

In addi­tion to set­ting parental con­trols, talk to your chil­dren about mak­ing good choic­es and being care­ful about what per­son­al infor­ma­tion they post. Cau­tion them about vis­it­ing unfa­mil­iar web­sites or down­load­ing unfa­mil­iar apps and encour­age them to ask you before they do down­load some­thing they aren’t sure about.

Do Your Own Research

You know your child bet­ter than any­one. Do your own research about the best devices and con­tent plat­forms for your fam­i­ly and know what parental con­trols and mon­i­tor­ing tools are avail­able based on the tech­nol­o­gy guide­lines you’ve set for your home.

Some devices offer very lit­tle con­trol over con­tent and activ­i­ty, while oth­ers have a wide range of parental con­trols for hard­ware, soft­ware, and con­tent. Con­sid­er your child’s age, matu­ri­ty lev­el, and expe­ri­ence with tech­nol­o­gy before choos­ing a device for them and giv­ing them access to online content.

Lead by Example

As intu­itive as mod­ern devices are (espe­cial­ly for chil­dren), they still require learned behav­iors to oper­ate and inte­grate into our lives. To ensure that tech­nol­o­gy is an aid to our chil­dren and not a hin­drance, we must teach them how to use devices respon­si­bly and as an enhance­ment to enter­tain­ment and productivity.

Intro­duce tech­nol­o­gy to your chil­dren slow­ly. And even before they get their first device, mod­el good dig­i­tal habits to them and explain why and how you use your devices the way you do. Chil­dren imi­tate what they see. Prac­tice what you preach to your chil­dren and cre­ate tech-free zones and down­time for your­self. Make sure the con­tent you post is pos­i­tive and appropriate.

To ensure that tech­nol­o­gy is an aid to our chil­dren and not a hin­drance, we must teach them how to use devices respon­si­bly and as an enhance­ment to enter­tain­ment and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. In doing so, you’ll set them up for a life­time of healthy online habits.