One of the many growing pains that we experience as a culture transitioning deeper into the digital age is how to parent in this brave new world of endless screens. How much screen time should you child have? Is a screen the best way to get the behavior from your child you want? Should we be using screens in front of our child? Parenting alongside screens is a two-front challenge: one from the parent’s perspective and one from the child’s. We will look at the strategies we can implement to combat technology in parenting.
Parenting can be tough without having a smartphone in your pocket, but adding this distraction can impact our childcare. The term “technoference” has been coined to describe the interruptions in parent-child exchanges due to technology.
Based on research conducted by Illinois State University, says that parents who have trouble managing their smartphone usage were likely to have this techoference with their children. The research went on to say that the technoference has potential links to the child’s behavior, materializing in depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and other disruptive conduct.
This kind of behavior is said to stem from the children’s attempts to compete with the smartphone for their parent’s attention. Whenever their parent does not respond to their cue, the child will take more drastic steps (like acting out) to get a response from their mother or father.
But what is a parent to do to minimize technoference when with their child? The biggest advice that the researchers at Illinois State say is to be mindful of your own technological usage and to be present as much as possible when you are with your children.
Whenever you pull out your phone to check a notification ask if it needs to be addressed right now. Developing strategies to stay in the present can help be a more present parent. Perhaps leaving your phone in another room or turning it off completely. It’s important that you and your partner talk about what technology strategies to use so you are both on the same page moving forward.
We have all seen it (or been the person), where parents plop down their kid and toss a smartphone in their hands so the parents can enjoy their dinner. While this strategy does create instant gratification for the child and the parent, but using technology as a parenting crutch can have long-term ramifications.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, recently changed their recommendations from a strict no child under 2-years old should be exposed to screen time rule to introducing children to screens at 18-months of age for educational purposes such as Sesame Street or PBS.
As children grow older, the AAP recommends setting time limits with screen interaction. They recommend 1-hour per day of educational programming with children 2 to 5 years old. It is stressed that parents co-view the programs with their children so they can help explain what they are watching and to help make connections the content has to the real world.
From age 6 and older, it is important to place clear and consistent rules in place for screen time. The AAP says to be sure to pay close attention to your child and make sure their quality of sleep or physical activity doesn’t suffer from technology use.
Another strategy that is recommended is to set a screen-free time daily where the family can be together without distractions. It is also recommended by the AAP to set up screen-free zones in the house, such as the bedroom or the car.
While every family is different, and has their own unique dynamic, these strategies can be manipulated and molded to fit people’s lifestyle. There is no one-way to be a successful parent, we have many avenues we can take to raise good kids, but the children being raised now are the first to be raised with such a cornucopia of technology and we should be mindful of the potential harm with so much exposure.