Having left your toddler for a minute or two, you might return to find him slowly inching towards the glowing screen of your phone. Within a decade or so, smartphone usage has rocketed and the trend remains unchanged. It goes without saying that children are increasingly exposed to technology, including smartphones. While we benefit from the convenience and ease of use, it is natural for parents to worry about their children’s exposure to screen time and what they can access digitally.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips:
Educate, not eradicate
Banning children from going online or on social media is detrimental more often than not because there is more incentive for the child to find loopholes. And there are far too many for a busy parent to keep track of. Sitting down and having a chat with your child about netiquette and the importance of privacy on the Internet can go a long way. The pervading issue of fake news is another dimension of the digital space that parents have to keep an eye on.
When it comes to younger children, WHO advises that babies and toddlers should not be left alone with the smartphone. It only encourages a sedentary lifestyle and over time, this concerns the future health problems that these children will grow up with. Of course, being a parent is tough and this is not a hard-and-fast rule parents have to follow. Moderated screen time and age-appropriate content are sure to stimulate your child’s mind. You can even simulate what you have seen, like trying out a new recipe or doing some art and craft to follow up. Just don’t leave them in the care of a ‘digital babysitter’.
Familiarise yourself with parental controls
There’s a whole range of parental controls to monitor and control your child’s access to different digital spaces. Here are two that are readily available and simple to set up.
Kiddle is the way to search
This kid-friendly visual search engine is powered by Google and reduces the chances of children finding something unsavoury. The visuals are colourful and designed to catch a child’s eye as well!
If you’re letting your child use regular browsers like Google, Safari and Firefox, remember to turn on the relevant filters to ensure your child has a safe browsing experience. Various plug-ins and extensions are available to block and filter websites as well.
In-built parental controls on smartphones
If you’re using an iPhone, you can limit the amount of time on the phone or an application using the Screen Time feature introduced in the iOS12 update. Parental controls have been improved as well: after setting up, you can now remotely control the amount of time your child (or children) can spend on an application.
For Android users, Family Link is a similar tool to track and control a child’s smartphone use.
Note that it has to be downloaded from the Google Play Store.
Play with your child
On a lighter note, why not try doing the same things your child is doing? Trying out a game that your child is playing not only promotes bonding but also gives you the chance to test how appropriate the game is and decide for yourself if it’s suitable for your child.
It will always be an uncertain ride when it comes to navigating technology and digital spaces as your child is growing, but the key is to ensure that sufficient controls are in place and that the children can adapt comfortably to a learning environment where their digital literacy comes in handy at school.