5 tips for smart digital parenting

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How many gadgets do you have at home?

Do you have computers, laptops, smart TVs, tablets, gaming gadgets, and mobile phones? According to a report on internet use in 2016, North American homes have an average of seven devices connected to the internet.

How long does your child use them?

Having gadgets is not the issue. The increasing amount of time kids use them is the problem. In 2015, it was reported that “Canadian kids spend an average of seven hours and 48 minutes a day in front of screens” (Canadian kids spend more time in front of screens each week than their parents spend at work).

What are the effects of too much gadget and internet use on kids?

  1. It increases the risk of obesity.
  2. It causes sleep problems.
  3. It has a negative effect on school performance.
  4. It can lead to addiction and problematic Internet use (e.g. Internet gaming disorder, anti-social behavior)
  5. It exposes them to bad content such as violence, porn, advertising and cyberbullying.
  6. It can lead to depression.

(Healthy Children.org)

It’s hard to avoid using gadgets especially during the pandemic. School, work, and other activities are now online. Digital tools can have educational and social benefits too. Parents need to help their kids use technology the right way.

5 tips for parents

  1. Learn more about technology and internet safety

    The more you know about technology and how gadgets work, the better you’ll be able to help your children.

  2. Talk to your kids and help them make good choices

    Talking to your child is the best way to limit use. Be honest. Tell them why you need to set limits. Explain why some things are harmful for them. Be open when answering their questions.

    Teach them respectful online behavior. Give sample situations and teach them the right response or action. This will give them the confidence to say no or log off if they don’t feel safe.

  3. Be a good example

    Kids watch what you do so practice good habits at home. Don’t stare at your phone all day or use your phone during dinner time.

  4. Read and play with them

    Play video games with your kids. You will learn the nature of these games and see potential dangers. Play board games, sports or other off-line games with them too. These make for great bonding moments with your children.

    Read bedtime stories to your child. It’s a good idea to read in your native language. Young kids learn from hearing the words, rhythm, and patterns of language. This can lessen the bad effects of screen-time.

  5. No screen time one hour before bedtime

    Screen time (whether TV or computer) near bedtime will make it hard for your child to rest and sleep. Keep gadgets out of the room as a rule.

How much time should you let your child use screen media?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  1. 0-18 months – No gadgets.
  2. 18-24 months – Choose a few high-quality programs and watch with them.
  3. two to five years old – One hour per day. Watch with your child to explain what they might not understand.
  4. Six and older– Set consistent limits on the time spent using media. Make sure media use does not take the place of sleep, physical activity and other healthy habits.

Here’s an example of how scheduling can be done:

Want to use the Media Time Calculator? You can find it here: Family Media Plan, Health Children.org.
Article updated April 15, 2021.
Sources: Canadian kids spend more time in front of screens each week than their parents spend at work, Catherine Cameron, Tennis Canada; and The Common Sense Census: Media use by kids age zero to eight, Common Sense Media, 2017.

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