Children should learn from an early age to use technology as a tool to connect with family

Parenting in the age of iPads

Computers, smartphones and TVs are everyday parts of our lives, but parents need to regulate technology to keep kids balanced

Get off the phone at dinner, dad.

No texting during story time, mom.

There was a time when the art of parenting was passed down generationally. Many of the traditional skills still apply, but parents today are also jumping into the completely new, and still unknown, world of smartphones and tablets in addition to computers and televisions. In some cases, teenagers are getting smartphones before their parents realize what the device is capable of.

The challenge in 2013 isn’t keeping new technology from our children, however, it’s teaching adults to see technology as a way to connect with people and as a learning tool, and not something passive like TV that can isolate us, says Prof. Valerie Irvine, co-director of the Technology Integration and Evaluation Research lab at the University of Victoria.

For some parents it means looking in the mirror at their own usage of smartphones and iPads.

“Who is mentoring and guiding our kids’ (use of technology) if parents don’t have network literacy or know how to monitor it?,” Irvine asked.

Parental monitoring of phones and other device usage is a start, but parents also need to engage their children’s use of technology and Irvine says to start by the time they’re in kindergarten.

“Cutting out technology is not where the world is at right now,” Irvine says. “We need to encourage and teach them to make choices. The medium is a big role in their life.

“There’s a criticism and worry about mobile phones but really, the mobile device allows connection between people. FaceTime, Skype and such programs connect us with others. In divorced households they’re great for children to connect, as well as with grandparents, and even for parents to connect with their parents for mentoring.”

Where television tends to fixate its viewers and smart devices demand at least some level of interaction, it’s generally accepted that all screen time be lumped together with a daily maximum. The Canadian Paediatric Society suggests no screen time for children younger than two, less than an hour for children two to four, and less than two hours of recreational screen time for ages five to 17.

Irvine stands behind it as a form of digital hygiene. Gradual development of appropriate use and informed decision-making through small steps is important. Making little judgment mistakes and having teachable moments when risks are small can help to develop the self-discipline needed by the time children reach the middle years.

“Family values aren’t new, they just need to be updated to handle these mediums,” says Allison Rees, who’s Living In Families Effectively (LIFE) seminars have guided hundreds of Greater Victoria parents through the challenges of child rearing. “Certainly we need screen-free zones, such as the kitchen, the kitchen table, the car, etc., to foster conversation.”

Rees’ longtime colleague Alison Miller, refers to the concept of social viruses. One such social virus is the process of letting a child who normally has restricted screen time visit a household with unlimited or unmonitored screen time.

And that’s OK too, Rees says, as long as parent and child discuss the experience and can grow from it. Perhaps the child will get upset with their parents’ rules, which is an important part of development.

“There’s stories of teenagers who reach university and have no barometer for technology usage and are unable to stop themselves,” Rees says. “They’ll have to make their own decisions eventually. Be up front in conversation as much as possible about the amount of (television, Internet or device usage) while away from the (parents).”

A small child doesn’t have a need for confidentiality, Rees reminds us. The more early dialogue the better. In fact, Irvine suggests to get the child their own smart device, such as an iPod (which does most of what an iPhone does but without the phone), but not until they’re school age and with limited use.

“The iPod has all sorts of learning apps that can be downloaded and done together,” Irvine says. “Talk about the app, teach them how to assess apps and computer websites before they download or click on them.”

Parental passwords can be set on the iPod, as well as other controls to limit what grade school kids can access.

“Eventually, once they reach middle school,” Rees says, “they’re going to be able to access anything on the web that we can and they need to be prepared for that.”

sports@vicnews.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UVIC to host brain health presentation at IdeaFest 2020

Integrative Lifespan Lab will teach residents brain health for free at IdeaFest 2020

Victoria Foundation welcomes new faces to board, staff, committees

Four members step down from the board with thanks from the foundation

Save-On-Foods signage appears at Colwood Corners

Development expected to achieve occupancy in 2021

Saanich wins 2020 Small Business BC award at Vancouver gala

‘Saanich is definitely open for business,’ mayor says

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay Victoria man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Most Read