Kerry McArthur explores the ups and downs of raising children in a world where access to information and ever-changing technologies is a daily reality.
The world is getting smaller and smaller every day, thanks to technology. We face increasing challenges of trying to raise kids who are more tech savvy, and more comfortable using digital communication and social media than we probably ever will be.
Today’s world is instant. When we were growing up, and needed to find out where a country was, we needed to wait until we arrived home from school. Mom would first make us eat lunch and then we would be allowed to grab the encyclopaedia and look up the fact we needed to, we then had to write it down and take it back to school. As a complete contrast to this, our children grab their tablets or smartphones and Google it.
While we may not always understand it, or appreciate the need some people have to keep technology invariably at hand, we can’t ignore it either. As parents, and for the benefit of our kids, we need to move with the times.
Stay techno savvy
The danger with technology it is so easy to allow it to take over and become a stand-in babysitter, get a plan in place.
- Devise a plan on when media can and can’t be used as a family. In our house, phones are put away at 19h00. Mobile devices are not allowed at the dinner table and when we are out as a family we limit their use.
- Treat phones, tablets and other online media as you would any other environment or activity. Ensure that the kids understand the limitation, what is safe, and what they are allowed to access or not.
- Be a good role model. Teach your children good manners and kindness when you are on online by doing do yourself. Cyber bullying is a big problem and children need to realise that this isn’t an acceptable way to be horrible to their peers.
- Teach the value of good face-to-face interactions. Too often our noses are in our phones, remember put it away and look into each other’s eyes when speaking. In order to develop good language skills, children need to have constant chats with adults.
- Create a tech free zone in the home. An example could be that bedrooms and the dining room are to be kept tech free, this will forces children and families to interact and play with each other.
- Change the home’s Wi-Fi password so that your child can only use their devices and the Internet after chores and homework have been done, and you give the password to them.
- Do your homework. Just because an app has a five-star rating does not mean that it is appropriate or useful for your child. Always use an app or play a game yourself before you allow your child to spend time on it.
- Check your privacy and in-app purchase settings. You could be opening yourself up to unwanted attention and a big fright when you get your data bill.
FUN APPS FOR KIDS
Mobile apps can be both fun and educational – and you don’t have to spend a fortune to keep into your little one’s playtime routine. For the young toddler or preschool child, mobile app suggestions include:
- Barney: Children will learn about shapes, picture completion, and consequences of actions (for example, bake and eat a cookie) when playing this free app.
- GoNoodle Kids: This is a fun app designed to get kids moving and their hearts pumping with lively activities.
- Ladybug Band: This is one of many interactive books that your child can get involved with. This book concentrates on music and rhythm.
- Spell Bear: This is a simple app that is designed to teach very young learners about letter sounds and words.
- Sonic Dash or Minion rush: Both of these games will test your tot to the limit of fine motor control and reflexes, and they are fun for both kids and parents.
- 3D Frog Frenzy: This game is all about logic, planning and timing. Our five-year-old loves this game and is so proud of herself when she gets her frog across the road. You might even recognise this game a computer game from your own childhood, using a tape or floppy disk.
- Candy Crush: You’ve most likely played this game yourself! It is fun, but addictive. For even the smallest preschooler it is entertaining and requires skills such as building on planning and problem solving.
Kids will make mistakes when using these technologies, but this isn’t a bad thing. Try to handle these mistakes gently and convert them into teachable moments by helping your child navigate through the problem. If, however, there is cyber bulling going on, posting of harmful messages or explicit texting, these are red flags and need to be stopped immediately. If necessary, professional help will be needed to address the concerns.
The most important thing is to HAVE FUN! Enjoy watching your child explore the digital world – you may even learn a few things along the way.