“They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”Steve Jobs once said in an interview, regarding his own children’s use of iPads.
Isn’t it curious? The founder of the world’s most popular smart devices was worried about the effect of his own products on children. And Jobs was not alone. The trend among tech execs and IT engineers was to forbid their kids from using technology.
As a result of early guidelines, as well as concerns about inappropriate content, addiction and health problems, some families and education institutions have completely banned their children from using smart devices. Other parents, however, believe that tablets and smartphones can act as engaging and enriching tools. Educational apps, in particular, bring more benefits to kids than watching TV.
What does the American Academy of Pediatrics say?
Is the electronic device really the “resident evil” at home? Is there a way that it may be advantageous? Now, AAP has renewed its suggestions for children’s media use in October 2016:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid the use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
The new recommendations, although seemingly only slightly looser, presented one outstanding point: children under 18 months can engage with others using various video-chatting tools. Moreover, it recognised the educational value of live interactions through video conversations, which is “critical for language development”. It also highlighted the benefits of media in bridging the learning achievement gap during the journey of childhood.
Besides AAP’s well-informed policy statements, VivaLing has some pieces of advice to parents to let their kids make better use of electronic devices.
Avoid bad, excessive exposure to electronic devices
“Parents all agree that eating chocolate is good, eating too much chocolate is usually bad, and eating excessively sweet chocolate while never exercising is even worse.”said VivaLing’s co-founder and CEO, Bernard Goldstein, a father of two. “The same goes with electronic devices. They must be put to moderate use and serve high-quality content in a highly engaging fashion, without replacing offline developmental activities. ”
Dr. David Hill, the chairman of the AAP. Council on Communications and Media’s executive committee, had the same concern. According to Dr Hill, not all apps or online tools labelled “educational” are suitable for kids. “The A.A.P. says media are diversifying, that quality of the media is critical, that there is much we still have to learn.”
According to parenting website Mom Loves Best, well selected screen programs can help children “learn new words, expanding their vocabulary”.
VivaLing advises parents to vet all online material for their kids, or choose a trusted education partner to accompany the kids’ device using time. An ideal use of device should provide inspiring and enriching contents to children, deliver an enjoyable variety of interactive activities such as games, singing and storytelling. Most importantly, it should be able to cater to each child’s unique need, interest and preference, creating the optimum learning environment for him/her.
Making a well-balanced kid
Children are natural explorers in the world. They like to play, read, talk and try their hands at a multitude of fun activities. Therefore, it is essential for parents to help them find balance among their hobbies as well as meeting health and learning needs. Parents could start encouraging their children to make their own schedules and goals, follow plans, and manage time even, from a young age. This would not only help kids not to get addicted to devices, but also better their chances of success in school and later on in life .