It’s rare for parents today to not experience some internal struggle about navigating kids and technology. Most of us understand that some experts are concerned about the overuse of screens. The effects of technology on children and society requires more research. But we also recognize that technology has become so commonplace that it’s hard to discern what the real danger is or what to do about it now, as facts are still being gathered.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the conflicting opinions. Here are 6 lies parents believe about technology and kids, and how this knowledge can help parents make wise decisions in a digital age.
Lie #1: Technology will strengthen my child’s friendships.
Many of us are taken in by technology’s promise to keep us connected. We praise the benefits of texting, video chatting, and social media, yet our real-world connections wane. Genuine friendships take time, energy, and investment to cultivate. Online connections may enhance real-world relationships, but they can never replace them.
If you want your kids to have a healthy social life, give them opportunities to socialize away from technology interruptions, encourage face-to-face interactions, and model healthy friendships of your own.Online connections may enhance real-world relationships, but they can never replace them.
Lie #2: Technology will help my child get ahead academically.
Schools are increasingly adding technology to the classroom, but beware of claims that a tablet or laptop in your child’s classroom will make them the next Einstein. Tech in the classroom hasn’t been around long enough to warrant credible claims that it enhances learning. However, mounting research suggests technology actually inhibits learning. It increases distractions, over-burdens children’s central nervous systems, and widens the achievement gap.
Many software programs our children learn today will be obsolete by the time they graduate. However, skills like problem-solving, deep thinking and self-regulation are the bedrocks of a lifetime of learning, and these are cultivated best through real-world experiences.
Lie #3: Young kids need to unplug more than teens.
As tweens and teens gain independence, parents sometimes forget they still need the security of strong familial connections. Adolescents’ brains are in rapid growth mode. Trading real-life relationships for online interactions pose a real hazard to their health. Older kids need exercise, time outside, and social and family interactions to keep them grounded. Encourage your teen to form a healthy identity, stay connected, be involved, and make sure they maintain a solid footing in the real world.
Lie #4: The amount of time spent on screens doesn’t matter as long as the content is good.
Educational apps and creative games may seem innocuous, but they create stimulation that hampers learning and fosters dependence. Content does matter, but so does the way that content is delivered. Pay attention to the time your child spends on a device and be sure most of their day takes place in the physical world, not a digital one.
Lie #5: Tech interests are the same as any other hobby.
We like to think that our kids’ interest in screens is like their love of animals or music. But most kids don’t use their devices because they want to be programmers one day. Screen technology is designed to draw people in and keep them hooked, making it ripe for overuse and abuse. Real world pursuits don’t threaten healthy sleep cycles or create anxiety in their absence, nor do they pose a risk to cognitive development like screens do. If your child has a hard time putting their device down or finding other interests, it may be time for some stricter limits.
Lie #6: Technology is everywhere; it’s useless for me to try to limit my kids’ use.
As kids get older, pressure mounts to get them their own device. And with little ones, the freedom a parent enjoys by allowing their toddler to play on a screen is undeniable. But resisting technology’s pull is still possible and is more important than ever. Decisions you make today to protect your children’s growing brains will pay dividends in the future. My ten-year-olds interact with tech regularly at school and at home, but they still spend more time reading and playing with friends than they do on electronics. It can be done. Down the road, you and your kids will be grateful for the intervention.