Like allowances, eating habits and a million other choices we make every day, introducing kids to technology is a hot topic with a wide spectrum of opinions ranging from sheltering young kids from technology to introducing it early and often.
While this is a choice we each have to make for our own families, I think there are some questions that should guide each of our decisions:
- What is your goal for introducing technology?
- What limits will you set?
- Does the use of technology interfere with time spent outside?
- Do children still have time for “free play”?
- Is technology becoming addictive for them?
- How will you prepare for or handle cyber bullying?
- Do you have programs in place to control what they have access to?
- How will you decide what “too much” means?
- Will access to technology be limited for poor choices or behavior?
For our family, the internet has provided opportunities and made more things possible than we could have ever dreamed of. We are able to be home together because of the internet and my work with blogs and other media. My mom is now working with me, and I’d love to one day offer jobs to our sisters and children too (obviously I don’t have a problem with not dreaming big enough!).
With that said, I know firsthand how addictive the internet and social media can be, and we’re careful to limit our girls’ time watching TV, playing video games and playing on the computer. There are a ton of amazing resources literally at our fingertips — from YouTube and Wikipedia to Starfall and Funbrain.com — but there’s also a whole lot o’ junk.
While I want my kids to understand the vocabulary of technology, I also think they have plenty of time to learn it. If you ask my oldest daughter (almost 6) what mommy does for work, she always replies, “Subscribe or something,” and I’m okay with that. They have MP3 players so they can listen to music and audiobooks on their own, but they don’t spend a lot of time on the computer.
On the other hand — if I’m being completely honest — sometimes I wonder if I’m putting my kids at a disadvantage by holding them back. I understand the idea of introducing it early and helping them master it while they’re young so they can be on the forefront of technological change and have an advantage in that area, and I think that’s a valid point.
This post isn’t going to end with a neat list of advice, but I do think this is something we need to be thinking and talking about. Even if we make different decisions for our families, we need to make sure we’re actively, intentionally making decisions about the role of technology in our kids’ lives and not just letting it happen without much thought. It’s a lot easier to change course down the road when you’ve made a decision in the first place!
What is your family’s view on introducing kids to technology? How do you balance it as a tool and an important part of modern life while still setting limits and and not letting it get out of control?