Tips for Raising Kids in a World Dominated by Technology - Preparing Kids for a Digital Future

It can be really hard to navigate this booming digital age, let alone teach our kids how to manage it! But we have to accept the reality that times have changed, and tech is not going anywhere.

Tips for Raising Kids in a World Dominated by Technology - Preparing Kids for a Digital Future

What is SEO and how to do it?

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The 3 most important things on a SEO strategy

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On Page SEO: Optimize your Website

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Off Page SEO: Link Building Strategy

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Wrapping up the article

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In many ways, kids’ lives today are totally different from what our childhoods looked like.  The growing presence of technology and digital media into our everyday experiences has revolutionized how kids play🪀, learn🧠, and grow🌱. 

This fact might trouble you. 

You might be thinking:

Shouldn’t kids enjoy their childhoods playing outside and avoiding tech??

We absolutely agree that tech-free play is so important for young people. Getting some fresh air by playing outside is critical too. But “avoiding tech” is no longer a reality. 

Even if you prioritize tech-free time in your household (which we, and the research, fully endorse), your kids will notice – and inevitably be exposed to – how tech is woven into the fabric of our lives. Technology isn’t going away, and kids need to learn how to navigate the tech-enabled world in a healthy way. 

With tech’s growing presence, we have to be careful with how kids interact with tech and digital media

Kids could seriously miss out on a healthy and joyful childhood if they are not taught how to coexist and interact with tech properly.  Left to their own devices (pun intended 😆), kids can form unhealthy relationships with technology. 

So parents, caregivers, and educators— kids need your help!

In this post, we will discuss: 

  • Tech and Digital Media’s Role in Kids’ Lives Today
  • Forming Healthy Relationships with Tech
  • Digital Literacy

Kids and Technology

How is technology impacting kids?

Even if you model a healthy relationship with the digital world in front of kids, they will notice how important tech is to our society. 

They might notice:

  • People Glued to Their Phones
    • Ever notice how, if you look around the subway, the long line at the grocery store, or even the playground bench, almost every adult has their phone in hand and is frequently scrolling something on it? Your kids notice it too!
  • Parents/Caregivers Using Devices for Tasks
    • Even if you only use tech around your kids when you need something specific (e.g., to pay a bill, to track an Amazon order, or to find the fastest route to soccer practice), kids are internalizing how these devices are beneficial to you. These observations will make them curious and want to use tech too.
  • Teachers’ Use of Tech
    • It’s rare to go into a classroom these days where teachers are not utilizing technology to boost lesson engagement. As schools begin to implement AI to aid instruction, tech’s role in the classroom will keep growing. So even if you’re limiting tech use at home, your kids will be exposed to it at school.

⚠️ Unhealthy Habits to Watch Out For 

Before we tell you how to help your kids establish healthy digital habits, let’s first talk about the warning signs that your kids are developing an unhealthy relationship with technology.

Here are some red flags to look out for:

🚩Overstimulating Shows like CocoMelon 

  • CocoMelon uses bright colors, fast-paced music, and short screen clips of 1-2 seconds, which spike dopamine, a hormone that makes you feel pleasure. When kids’ brains are exposed to this dopamine spike, they want more of the feeling, and so they will want to watch more and more episodes. They will also feel withdrawal symptoms when it’s time to turn off the show. 
  • Other shows that use similar techniques to spike dopamine include Little Baby Bum, Blipi, Ms. Rachel, and Baby Einstein.

🚩Frequent Screentime for Kids Under 5 Years Old

  • Here are the World Health Organization’s guidelines for screentime for kids under 5 years old
    • Children under 2 years old: no screentime
      • Exceptions include: FaceTiming with an out-of-town relative and occasional educational programming for 18-24-month-olds.
    • 2-5 years old: maximum of 1 hour of screentime per day

🚩Too Much “Passive Consumption

  • Your kid passively consumes content when they watch or listen to repetitive programming that does not require them to think or respond. 
  • Passive consumption can occur when kids watch YouTube or binge-watch a TV show on a streaming service where the viewer does not need to do anything because the next episodes automatically play. This behavior teaches your kid to be a quiet consumer of content and not use their brain when watching programs.

To read more on tech’s potentially harmful impact on kids’ attention, check out our post on the topic.

How to Encourage a Healthy Relationship with Tech

For kids aged 6 and up, there is a lot of debate over the recommended number of screen time hours that should be allowed, but what’s agreed on is that adults must help kids form healthy habits with tech ASAP.

Here’s how:

Engage with What Your Kids Are Watching

  • Research the programs your kids like to watch. If the program seems to fall into the bucket of “overstimulating shows” like CocoMelon, try to encourage other programs instead. 
  • You should also spend time watching programs with your kids. When doing so, you should ask them questions and point out positive behaviors that you see in the program. 
    • This is a way to teach “Active Consumption.” By encouraging conversation and reflection when watching a program, you will demonstrate how to actively engage with the material and practice different skills like problem-solving and perspective-taking.

Model a Healthy Relationship with Tech

  • You are your kids’ biggest role model and they are watching your every move. Just as you’re encouraging your kids to disengage in unhealthy habits like watching  CocoMelon, you should do the same and avoid excessive passive consumption like scrolling social media

Emphasize the Importance of Tech-Free Time

  • Set aside quality tech-free time for the whole family. Try placing devices in a separate room to avoid distractions.
    • One common time to do this is at dinner. Ask your kids questions about their days and discuss topics that excite them. This type of daily conversation is critical for your kid’s social-emotional growth as well.
    • Another way to encourage a tech-free time is to have quiet family reading time in the evening. Depending on the age of your children, this could be a good time to read to them as well (you could even use Nookly to create personalized stories in less than 5 minutes)!
    • Encourage activities that do not require any tech. Help your kids find their passions by introducing them to different activities like sports, arts and crafts, and instruments. 

Digital Literacy 101

What is digital literacy?

The definition of digital literacy is exactly what it sounds like: the ability to use tech tools and devices properly. Digital literacy helps kids healthily interact with tech and digital media.

Of course, what it means to be digitally literate as a 5-year-old is different than it is for a 13-year-old. There are many factors that determine how digitally literate your kid should be. A good rule of thumb is you should feel confident that your kid knows how to safely use and benefit from the digital programs they use.

Why is it important for kids to gain digital literacy?

Given tech’s growing role in everyday lives, digital literacy is an essential skill to properly navigate tech and digital media. It’s important to teach digital literacy to your kids because we want to foster proper use of tech from an early age to avoid unhealthy habits.

How can I teach my kid to be digitally literate?

Here are a few tips for teaching digital literacy to your kids:

  • Teach Active Consumption
    • As we mentioned before, ask your kids questions about the program they are watching so they can actively engage with the material. 
    • Encourage them to “actively consume” content independently as well. This can look like finding programs that encourage your kid to think about what they’re viewing or listening to.
      • Nookly is an example of a program that promotes active engagement by generating a story with a protagonist that looks like your kid and a plotline that relates to a skill your kid is working on. These features allow your child to relate to the story and practice a given skill while reading. 
  • Look for Credible Sources
    • Depending on your kid’s age, teach them the skills needed to determine if a site or program is trustworthy and safe. For example, teach how to close any pop-up ads and to always consult an adult before providing any information (even your first name!) on a digital platform.
    • By teaching this skill at a young age, you will set your kids up to hone more complex skills for finding credible sources when they’re older, like conducting research and avoiding fake news.
  • Proper Care for Devices
    • Teach your kids how to properly handle and store devices. Not only should this practice help avoid the tragedy of an apple-juice-soaked-iPad, but it’ll reinforce that technology itself is a valued resource that must be approached with care.
  • Explain Why We Balance Screentime
    • Kids are much more likely to do something if they understand the “why” behind it. So you should explain why it is essential to take time away from tech. This will also teach kids the benefits of both tech and tech-free time, which will help them actively participate in both.

At what age should I start teaching my kid about the digital world?

You should start teaching your kids about the digital world as soon as they start interacting with tech. This level of interaction can be as minor as seeing examples set by other adults. In these moments, explain to them what the adult is doing.  These conversations will grow more complex and specific as your child develops and uses tech more frequently.

An important warning: treating tech like it’s taboo could have harmful effects. Tech will be enticing to your kids, and if they feel like you disapprove of it, they could engage in sneaky behavior to try it out. As much as you can, it’s best to establish an honest and open dialogue around tech and digital media use so your kids feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns about it.

Since our own childhoods were so much more tech-free— I, for one, remember the day my parents bought a ginormous (and, in retrospect, painfully slow) computer for our family to share— it can be really hard to navigate this booming digital age, let alone teach our kids how to manage it!  But we have to accept the reality that times have changed, and tech is not going anywhere. The best way to form healthy relationships with tech is to continuously learn about the programs we use, stay updated on the research, and maintain an open dialogue with our kids about all the tech they use.