The Technology and Kids Debate: When is Too Early or Too Late?

two kids laying side by side playing on their ipads - kids and technology

From video games to smartphones, technology is an inescapable part of life. All sorts of digital media exist and allows us to do amazing things and have incredible conveniences. But at the same time, technology use can have some downsides. As parents, this raises concerns when it comes to technology and kids. At what age is it too young for children to be exposed to technology? On the other hand, is waiting too long to expose kids to technology hindering their chances to excel? Many parents are seeking answers to these questions. Exploring the pros and cons related to technology and kids is a worthy endeavor.
girl in blue sweater navigating her ipad - technology and kids

Snapshot of Technology and Kids Today

Children of all ages use various technologies today. Toddlers are well adept at video-chatting with a parent away on a trip. Schools employ a number of interactive digital media to aid learning. And a teen without a smartphone has become a rarity. In looking at the statistics concerning technology and kids, the data is impressive. Overall, more than half of all children between 8 and 12 years old have their own tablets. More than two-thirds of adolescents have their own smartphone. And nearly all parents strive to monitor and control how much exposure their children have to these technologies. One thing is clear…digital technologies are here to stay. As a result, parents must learn best practices to ensure their children have the greatest chance for success.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Early?

You might be surprised just how early technology is recommended for children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 18 months should avoid screen-based media except for video chatting. However, after 18 months, parent-supervised technology with high quality programming is permissible. They also recommend that parents should limit technology to an hour daily when kids are between 2 and 5 years. Thereafter, consistency in setting limits on technology use is what matters most. While these general guidelines regarding technology and kids are helpful, they fail to answer parents’ questions completely.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Late?

Interestingly, the initial stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no screen time the first 2 years of life. Why the change? Because additional studies subsequently demonstrated “screen time” could actually enhance child learning. When it comes to technology and kids, the problem is a lack of data. Very few studies offer real evidence about the ideal age when children should use technology. In a world where digital media and technologies are increasingly required to function, children need to develop skills. Introducing technologies too late or being too restrictive may actually place children at a disadvantage later in life.

What We Do Know About Technology and Kids

When it comes to technology and kids, three areas need to be considered. Time, content and context. For example, regardless of your philosophy, there is such a thing as too much time in front of a device. Likewise, technologies do not belong in some situations like the dinner table. And we all would agree content issues are a serious concern. With these things in mind, the following are considered best practices when it comes to technology and kids.

Teach Early and Teach Often

Good parenting strives to let kids know both the pros and cons of technology use. Issues such as privacy protections and fraud are notably important. Have these conversations frequently and advance these discussions based on age.

Be a Good Role Model

If you want your child to have good technology habits, they need to see it. This means practicing what you preach! Take a good look at your own technology habits to see if they might need improvements as well.

Be “Trans” parent in Your Oversight

When it comes to technology and kids, parents need to monitor content. This becomes much easier if parents are open and honest about it from the beginning. Setting rules and being consistent goes a long way. And continually explaining why it is important helps too.

Stay Up to Date with Technology

While this can be a struggle for many parents, it is an investment in parenting. From social media privacy settings to software content filters, knowing current trends is important. Talk with other parents and check reputable resources regularly to stay current.

Healthy Life Balance Still Matters

Too much of any one thing can be detrimental to well-being. Social media may help some children interact with peers, but real-life friendships are also important. Likewise, physical activities and other experiences create better-adapted children. Whatever you decide is best for technology and kids, make sure ample time is available for other activities. In other words, insist on time for them to “disconnect.”

Avoid Technology Use Before Bedtime

From the blue light emitted by devices to an inability to relax, sleep, technology and kids don’t mix. Research now shows it is best to avoid technology use an hour before bedtime for kids and adults. This is one area where research is quite clear.

Let Common Sense Prevail

Given the lack of definitive research, parents should rely best on their intuition and their child’s specific needs. Follow the above guidelines, and mix in a good dose of common sense. This will go a long way in helping you parent effectively.

Technology and Kids – Final Thoughts

Hopefully, research will help identify which technologies should be introduced at which times for optimal child development. So far, however, the jury is still out. Clearly, when it comes to kids, many benefits exist with technology including learning and skill improvements. But too much technology can be detrimental to social, emotional and even physical health. For additional insights, periodically check resources like Common Sense Media and Family Online Safety Institute. These resources plus the previously described guidelines offer the most effective parenting strategies in relation to technology and kids.

About the Author

Dawna is a mom of two young kids, puppy lover, ice cream lover, chocolate lover, and lover of any ice cream with chunks of chocolate in it. She is the author of seven books, a business owner, certified health coach, motivational speaker, and creator of the 5-Day Detox and the 14-Day Clean-Eating Program. Dawna appears regularly on local and national television. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha, MSNBC, HSN, and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna is a highly sought-after speaker and has done speaking engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Mass Mutual, Wharton Business School, Women’s Entertainment Television, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum, Susan G. Komen, and many more.
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