Healthy Relationships Between Kids and Technology
Technology is all around us, and this generation is exposed to it more than ever before. Today I'm going to be going through hits and tips for your kids, or the kids you look after, to make sure that the relationship you have with technology is healthy.
History of Technology
To start off with though, let's look at a bit of history. Books were the devil. They were not considered a healthy thing to be reading. You were considered pompous if you read books. I don't think it's ever been cool to read books, but it was definitely a better way of getting information across. You started off with children's books that had pictures, then small amounts of words, then they went from small words to sentences, from sentences to paragraphs, from paragraphs to deep literature with lots of involvement with next to no pictures. With current day technology, the same device your kid is using is usually the same or similar to the device that you're using for the majority of the time. There's a relationship already, you've created something, a device that's on parity with what you're using, which isn't good. Because it means that they can potentially have access to that same information that you're looking at, and you know what's out there, and a lot of that you don't want your kids to have a look at.
Technology Leaders and Their Habits
Now let's look at the history of some of our technology leaders. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs all have children that are not allowed to play with technology. Bill Gates has or had, a computer in the living area where his kids could use, sporadically, and only to do things while monitored by a parent because they know that true knowledge does not come from electronic devices. It comes from reading a book and stepping away from the things that offer thousands of distractions per day. If the people that are generating all these products are not allowing their kids to use the technology they've created, it has to make you wonder what the relationship they feel their kids should be having with it. Now, I bring this up because you want to make sure that you, for whatever the reason is you're putting your child in front of technology, is being answered.
Your Technology Habits
Whatever the question is or whatever you're doing, maybe you want to have a coffee with some friends and you go, "Ah, just put 'em in front of the bloody iPad" or whatever it is. Same as you go, "Stick the kids in front of the idiot box. They can just sit there and watch TV for a bit and give me some peace and quiet." Technology will offer that, and that comes down more to a relationship that you have with your kids, the discipline that you've created and the environment you've created for them to flourish.
Some people are giving their kids these tablets as a way of learning, and I think that's perfectly fine if you're there learning with them and you can actually see what it is that they're learning. You don't want to have them sitting in front of something that is teaching them that they need to click now, upgrade, buy this, get this reward of dopamine, and go onto the next level, next stage, and become addicted because that is what they are. They are addiction machines.
In the Good Old Days...
Back in my day, we would sit down and watch the TV and it was a reward of a Saturday morning to watch Disney cartoons. If you got up early enough, before mum and dad, you'd be able to crack out Agro's Cartoon Connection. But if your family was like mine, you're sitting in front of the TV with your headphones plugged in, and making sure you're not making any noise whatsoever.
Think About Monitored Time
On a tablet, a lot of them make lots of noise. Monitored time with electronic devices is good and be there with them while they're using them. Make sure it's a tool for learning. If they're going to be in front of it, don't have them in front of it for hours. Make sure they're still getting their exercise happening. There are very few technology devices that have your child running around the place. From a health perspective, cutting down the amount of technology your children use is a very good idea. If you look back to the 1970s, and you think about the classroom, there were very few obese children. They get social anxiety and social pressures from the world around them, and it leads to more suicides, communication dysphoria, depression and anxiety problems. Children are not going outside and playing in the streets enough.
Don't Use it as a Reward
Don't use technology as a reward for your kids because that shows you're putting it on a pedestal. If you think about technology and the way it should be used with children, if it's like a book and you're saying, "Look, I'm going to reward you for reading this book because you ate your dinner," that's perfectly fine, as long as the child sees the book on the same level as they see the tablet. You don't want to have one have a higher value than the other. If that is the case, then they're never going to want to read the book, and ultimately, readers are leaders. People that are reading books and people that are engaged in knowledge are the movers and shakers of our time. Knowledge and attitude is everything. Give your kids a fair chance, don't have them become overweight from using technology devices. In my opinion, the time that you want to be putting towards spending it on tablets should be minimal. I'm talking maybe 20 minutes a day.
Social Media Use
Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and all those other different things, they exist and they are going to want to jump on them. You have to be open to allow them to do that. You just have to think of the age that you think would be okay for them to do that, because as soon as you get onto those platforms, it allows the sharing of stuff that you don't want to see, conversations you don't want to read, and that in itself can create a disconnection with reality.
No one puts up sad posts on Facebook, Instagram, unless they're looking for attention. Everyone's on holidays, everyone's having babies, everyone's getting married, everyone's positive. Explaining that to them and talking to them about why people put things on Facebook, and what you'd like to put on Facebook is a great idea. Maybe even consider joining and making a profile together and explaining the social aspects of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat is a way that you can make sure that they aren't held down to the pressures of society and the ways that people post and bully.
Giving Kids a Phone
Now, we've covered a lot of ground on what to do with your child's technology devices while at home, but then there's always the question of what are they going to do when they get a mobile phone and need to take that to school? I was one of the lucky students at the school that got a mobile phone. Yep, sounds like my parents were rich, but the truth is they were looking to throw out this phone, it had fallen apart, the screen was cracked, the battery didn't charge anymore, and all the connectors that joined onto the battery and the sim card were destroyed. I got exactly the same phone that had other broken problems on it, and I desoldered elements from the first phone into the other phone.
I had to use Kynar wire to join the battery and the sim card and solder it directly to the phone and I managed to build a phone out of two phones, that worked. That meant that I was learning to create this phone. I had it in my bag for emergencies and that was pretty much it. I had it in there, just in case something went terribly wrong. I was on the cheapest plan you could be on. TPG have a plan for $1 a month and at $1 a month, you can afford to have the phone in your children's bag and you can limit everything that the phone can do so that it's not costing you heaps of data while it's out and about. They still have that security and you still have that peace of mind, so you know where they are if you need to know where they are.
What Age is Appropriate to Have a Phone?
I feel that when they get to an age that they're walking on their own, and you're not 100% confident in their whereabouts, then getting a phone with a limited plan is a very sensible idea, but use it for those reasons. Don't use it as a distraction with lots of technology apps, that means they get in trouble at school because they're not doing what they're meant to be doing.
I hope this has been of use, have fun and stay safe!