Published Aug 22, 2023 - Discover effective strategies for introducing your kids to technology and fostering a positive foundation to help them navigate their digital journey.
It’s no secret that the modern world revolves around technology. As parents, it is our responsibility to set our children up for success in the digital age and allow them to seamlessly integrate into a tech-focused world. Responsibly exposing your children to screens and time online is a great way to set them up for success.
This article will guide parents in introducing children to technology while emphasizing its positive potential. Like anything else, moderation is key in screen time for children, so we will guide you through how to set healthy limits and encourage positive behavior. Building a solid foundation in healthy tech use is critical to your child’s success in school, work, and beyond.
According to a Common Sense Media study, 42% of kids have a phone by age 10. By age 12, this number goes up to 71%. This means that even if your child does not have a device of their own, their classmates and friends likely will. Many children use their phones to socialize, game, and entertain themselves.
Also, modern classrooms incorporate much more technology than ever before. Your child may be one of the 87% of children who do most of their homework online – and you want to be sure that they know how to safely and responsibly use the computer before their digital lesson is assigned.
You may be skeptical of technology and fear that screen time will harm your child in the long run. However, well-moderated tech use can benefit your children and help them gain familiarity with basic digital literacy skills. The key is to be mindful of what programs your child uses, how much time they spend online, and whether or not they understand the boundaries you’ve set around their tech use.
When introducing kids to technology, it is vital to establish age-appropriate boundaries. Limitations to technological usage help ensure a safe digital experience. Children's exposure to technology should align with their developmental stage and maturity level.
Before trusting your child with a new or used phone, establish some ground rules for when they are allowed to use these devices. These ground rules can include whether or not the phone is allowed in their room, what time they must turn off their phone, daily screen time limits, what apps and games are allowed, and more. Be clear and precise with your child so they know what is expected of them; kids do best when they have clearly defined boundaries around new tech.
Screen time limits, of course, vary depending on your child’s age and maturity level. Professionals recommend that children under 2 get no screen time outside of video calls with friends and family; children aged two to five should have no more than one hour of screen time each day; children above five years old should have no more than two hours of screen time (excepting screen time needed for schoolwork). You can install apps on your child’s devices like StayFree and Bark to monitor and restrict their time online.
In addition to screen time apps, implement a robust parental control system. Some devices include parental controls; you can block sites and apps, set age and time limits right from the internal settings menu. If your child’s device does not have a system like this, utilize apps like Net Nanny or Qustodio to moderate your child’s internet usage.
It is also essential to consider that some technologies or online platforms may have specified age restrictions. Age restrictions exist for a fundamental reason, as these platforms and devices often require a certain level of understanding and responsibility. Spend some time researching the age restrictions and content warnings on the apps and games your child uses to ensure they are not seeing distressing or inappropriate content.
Children look to their parents for guidance and observe their online and offline behaviors. Parents can shape their children's digital habits by demonstrating responsible and balanced technology use and instilling healthy online practices. This is why it’s vital that you intentionally show your kids how to explore the internet safely.
Show your children how you use technology by displaying responsible screen time management, setting boundaries for yourself, and engaging in screen-free activities. If you use a screen time tracker, show your child your usage at the end of the day and create a dialogue about how you use your device. If you show your child that you use your phone for not only social media and gaming but for research, paying bills, and other essential functions, it demonstrates to your child that their device is more than just a toy.
But also try to cut your screen time to 2 - 3 hours a day yourself, and try not to be on your phone too much around children. Make a point to actively engage in IRL activities you and your child do together, and implement a “screen-free hour” each day before bed. Demonstrating the same kind of responsibility you want to see in your child is the best way to instill healthy tech limits.
Similarly, if you experience some weird interactions online, tell your child about them. If a player in your favorite online MMO sends you harassing messages, talk to your child about how you blocked and reported them instead of engaging. If you get a Facebook friend request from a profile that seems fake or suspicious, show it to your child and emphasize the importance of only accepting requests from people you know.
Being an engaged digital role model requires ongoing awareness and active participation in your child's technology journey. Tell your child they can come to you with any questions and concerns, and be a safe space to process their interactions online.
One of the key benefits of technology is the many educational resources it offers. By encouraging the use of educational apps and tools, you can help enhance your child's educational journey.
Kids learn through play, and kid’s educational apps and tools are designed with that in mind. Puzzles, problem-solving games, and other fun activities catered to your child’s specific needs and interests will allow them to learn these concepts quickly and easily.
If you have young children, many educational tools and resources are available to help foster a healthy relationship with technology.
ABCmouse (Website and App): ABCmouse offers a comprehensive early learning curriculum with interactive activities in subjects like reading, math, science, and art
Khan Academy Kids (App): Khan Academy Kids provides engaging activities, books, and videos across various subjects such as math, reading, language, and social-emotional development
PBS Kids (Website and App): PBS Kids offers various educational games, videos, and activities featuring popular characters from their TV shows
Starfall (Website and App): Starfall focuses on early reading and phonics skills through interactive games, stories, and songs
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn (App): Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn offers interactive games and activities that promote early learning, including colors, shapes, numbers, and more
Highlights Kids (Website and App): Highlights Kids provides educational content, including stories, puzzles, games, and activities that cover a variety of topics
Moose Math (App): Moose Math introduces young children to basic math concepts through fun games and activities
Busy Shapes (App): Busy Shapes is a puzzle app that helps children develop spatial reasoning and problem-solving skills
Sago Mini World (App): Sago Mini World offers a collection of interactive games and activities that foster creativity, problem-solving, and imagination
PlayKids (App): PlayKids features various educational videos, games, and interactive activities to promote learning and creativity
These apps and websites offer engaging and educational content designed for pre-teens, allowing them to learn, explore, and have fun while developing new skills and knowledge.
BrainPOP (Website and App): BrainPOP offers animated educational videos, quizzes, and interactive activities on various subjects, including science, math, social studies, and more
Scratch (Website): Scratch is a programming language and online community where pre-teens can create interactive stories, games, and animations
Coolmath Games (Website): Coolmath Games offers various math-focused games that make learning math concepts enjoyable and interactive for pre-teens
Prodigy (Website and App): Prodigy is a math learning platform that engages pre-teens in interactive math games aligned with the curriculum, helping them practice and improve their math skills
NASA Kids' Club (Website): NASA Kids' Club offers games, videos, and activities that introduce pre-teens to the wonders of space exploration and science
Time for Kids (Website): Time for Kids provides news articles, interactive features, and educational resources for pre-teens, covering current events, science, social studies, and more
TypingClub (Website): TypingClub offers a comprehensive typing course with lessons, exercises, and games to help pre-teens improve their typing skills
Tynker (Website and App): Tynker is a coding platform that introduces pre-teens to programming through interactive games, puzzles, and projects
Funbrain (Website): Funbrain offers a variety of educational games, books, and videos that cover subjects like math, reading, problem-solving, and more
It can be challenging as a parent to be sure that your teenagers are utilizing technology to learn and grow. Some popular educational websites and apps can keep your teenager engaged in learning as they transition to the next phase of their lives.
Khan Academy (Website and App): Khan Academy offers a vast library of video lessons and interactive exercises covering a wide range of subjects, including math, science, humanities, and test preparation
Duolingo (Website and App): Duolingo provides interactive language courses in over 30 languages, making it an excellent tool for teens interested in learning a new language
Coursera (Website and App): Coursera offers online courses from top universities and institutions on various subjects, allowing teenagers to explore their interests and expand their knowledge
TED-Ed (Website): TED-Ed features a collection of educational videos on a wide range of topics presented by experts and educators worldwide
Codecademy (Website and App): Codecademy offers interactive coding lessons in various programming languages, making it an ideal platform for teenagers interested in learning to code
National Geographic Kids (Website): National Geographic Kids provides engaging articles, videos, and quizzes on topics related to science, nature, history, and geography.
Quizlet (Website and App): Quizlet is a platform that enables students to create and access flashcards and study guides, making it a valuable resource for studying and memorization
Wolfram Alpha (Website and App): Wolfram Alpha is a computational knowledge engine that can assist with solving complex math problems, providing data, and exploring various subjects
Crash Course (YouTube Channel): Crash Course offers a series of entertaining and informative video lessons on subjects such as science, history, literature, and more
The New York Times Learning Network (Website): The New York Times Learning Network provides educational resources, articles, and activities that help teenagers develop critical thinking and news literacy skills
With the pressure to constantly have the latest and greatest gadgets available, teaching your kids about sustainability through technology may seem counterintuitive. But that's far from the case.
You can teach your kids responsible and sustainable technology use by explaining how these devices are powered and the environmental impact of their production and disposal. For example, in 2022 alone, over 5 billion mobile devices will have made their way into landfills, creating significant e-waste.
From there, introduce them to refurbished technology and how their consumption habits impact the planet. You can also encourage them to lessen their environmental footprint by exploring energy-saving features on their devices, like dimming the screen or enabling power-saving mode. When it’s time to upgrade your or your child’s devices, show them how to find technology recycling centers, or decide to do a trade-in.
By introducing them to information regarding e-waste and sustainable practices, you’re helping curb irresponsible consumer habits and teaching future generations how to craft a more sustainable future.
Kids can also explore sustainability and tech through apps tracking energy consumption or websites that provide tips for greener lifestyles. Take the time to integrate sustainability into their everyday interactions with technology. Children can develop a deeper understanding of their environmental impact and become empowered to make conscious choices for a more sustainable future when using technology.
Technology also provides tools that allow children to explore new avenues of self-expression. Consider exploring different creativity tools with your child to identify their interests and help them productively use technology.
Art doesn't have to be on pen and paper. Many drawing apps are available for kids on a new or refurbished iPhone or iPad and help children express their artistic side. If you have an Apple device, you can let your kids go wild with Procreate; the program is excellent for beginner and veteran artists alike. Some other great art apps for kids include Draw In, Drawing with Carl, and Draw Story – a game where you save the day with your drawings!
Coding helps encourage kids to become creators rather than only consumers of technology. While there are hundreds of coding apps, consider starting your child with something beginner-friendly and free to see if it interests them. A few places to begin can include Daisy the Dinosaur and Tynker.
Technology can help kids communicate with friends and family near and far. Through video calls, social media platforms, and instant messaging, children can maintain meaningful relationships with the loved ones in their lives. However, it’s also possible that your child can encounter people who may be dangerous or inappropriate.
Before giving your child free rein on the apps and games they like, check the messaging settings to ensure they cannot reach out to strangers, or vice-versa. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the apps and games your child uses the most, and be familiar with their messaging systems as well. Finally, ensure that your child shares all of their passwords with you, and routinely check on their inbox to ensure they are communicating safely and age-appropriately.
An early foundation in music can be hugely beneficial to your child - studies show that children with a solid foundation in musical education have more capacity for learning and higher test scores. MacBook computers and other Apple devices have a pre-installed GarageBand app, allowing users to create their own songs. If you have a PC or other device, encourage your child to play with programs like Mussila Music School or Bandimal.
Video creation and editing apps can help students write narratives, create storyboards, and collaborate with friends. Getting your child a refurbished Macbook Pro can be a cost-efficient way to record and edit videos in one place by using the pre-installed iMovie. You can also allow your child to use YouTube’s native video editor or a video editing app like inShot.
Listening to podcasts can be an excellent way for children to discover new interests and learn more about their world. Using apps to create their own podcasts can also help kids gain skills in communication, recording, and editing. Spotify offers its own podcast editing software, or your child can use a more advanced program like Audacity or SoundTrap to learn valuable editing skills.
Online safety is a top concern for every parent, and you must teach your child about it from the first time they access the internet. Impart on your children how important it is never to give out personal information like their full name, address, school, or age – and emphasize that they shouldn’t give out your personal information, either. The website Be Internet Awesome is a hugely valuable resource for parents and kids - it offers age-appropriate courses, guidance, and games to teach kids about staying safe on the internet.
Digital literacy, too, is essential for your child to stay online. Much of digital literacy comes with time, but intentionally set aside time to talk with your child about how the internet works. Explain the difference between chat rooms, forums, and social networks; teach them how to block users on multiple platforms; review the basics of Netiquette.
Empowering your child to be safe and comfortable while on the internet will set them up for success in our increasingly digital world.
You can bond with your child and guide them toward safe online experiences by engaging in technology together as a family. Spend some time on social media or other websites together – learn a TikTok dance together, find an interesting Wikipedia article and read it together, or play together in an online game like Roblox or Minecraft.
Doing these activities together serves a dual purpose: it brings your family together for intentional bonding time. It opens a dialogue between you and your child about safely interacting with people online. Children learn through play, and teaching them how to play safely – not giving out personal information, behaving kindly, and alerting adults if bullies appear – will help them develop a healthy relationship with technology and social media.
Introducing your kids to technology can be a powerful tool for facilitating their growth in the digital age. By adopting a balanced and mindful approach, parents can ensure that technology becomes a valuable and enriching experience for their children.
It is crucial to establish clear boundaries and guidelines to promote responsible usage while fostering open communication and trust. Encouraging active engagement with technology, such as through educational apps and interactive games, can enhance learning and critical thinking skills. Furthermore, parents should prioritize quality screen time and actively participate in their children's digital activities, promoting a shared understanding and bonding opportunities.
As technology evolves rapidly, parents must stay informed and adapt their strategies accordingly, ensuring their kids develop healthy habits, responsible digital citizenship, and a healthy mindset towards technology. By embracing technology as a learning, creativity, and connection tool, parents can empower their children to navigate the digital world with confidence and resilience.
Miguel is always looking for new ways to provide unique perspective on popular tech and has taken his writing to the refurbished industry to promote sustainability. Outside of creating content, you might find him travelling the globe, coaching a fitness class, or cheering on his favorite sports teams (Go Dolphins!)