Building A Healthy Relationship Between Your Child and Technology

It really is possible!

We’ve written before about the feelings of guilt that some parents can experience when allowing their child to use screens, but we thought it would be helpful to write about the process of building a healthy relationship between your child and technology.

Technology is important — it gives our children access to socialisation, education and entertainment. It’s also a vital tool in busy households where one or both parents are working full time and can’t seem to provide their child with the right amount of mental stimulation, while also trying to stay financially afloat.

Dr. Jenny Radeski M.D., a paediatrician and expert on children and media at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital stresses that screen time should not be seen by parents as a negative thing, as long as some consideration is given to the way in which a child interacts and engages with it. She proposes ‘The Three C’s’ framework for modern parenting, focusing on child, content and context.

Understanding that parents know their own children better than anyone else, Dr. Radeski states that they are the best people to decide what media and how much media is the right amount for their child to consume. For example — if you have a particularly anxious child, it’s important to avoid exposure to news media and scary or exciting videos. If your anxious child likes music, find media for them to engage with that involves singing or musical soundtracks.

Quality of content of quantity of content is equally important when it comes to screen time. For younger children, parents should seek content created by reputable sources, like PBS Kids or ABC Kids. Common Sense Media are a great resource for all parents, providing age-based recommendations on all forms of media, such as movies, television, apps and games. Various zoos and aquariums are also offering live camera feeds to entertain and educate children.

When choosing media for your child to consume, research has shown those that mimic real-life at a realistic pace are best for reducing overstimulation and are less likely to trigger attention issues in children. In terms of older children playing video games, it’s important to remember that experts say there is no connotation between video games and violent or destructive behaviour, and instead insist that these technological mediums are paramount in maintaining socialisation for teens and older children.

In terms of context, Dr. Radeski encourages parents to engage with their children during screen time. Show interest to help your child build their self-esteem. Help connect your child’s media use with real world experiences by asking questions about what they are learning or watching. For example, you could watch a cooking video with your child, and then spend an hour or two recreating that recipe as a family.

To avoid conflicts over time allowed on devices and the ways in which they are used, it’s important to create and communicate clear boundaries and stick to them as much as possible. Younger children crave structure more than anything else. Dr. Radeski recommends setting a no-screen rule one hour before bed, as well as one hour after waking, to avoid impacting sleep cycles.

And above all? Practice what you preach.

If you are on your phone all the time, your child will want to mimic that behaviour. Technology is a fantastic resource — but the best memories will always come from real parent-to-child interaction.

If you have any questions about children and technology, or if you need help establishing a family routine around devices, get in contact with Kasia by emailing hello@kasiapalko.com.au.

Sources: Cheng, E. R. & Wilkinson, T. A. (2020). Agonizing Over Screen Time? Follow The Three C’s. NY Times.; Carey, B. (2018). Is Screen Time Bad For Kids Brains? NY Times.