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To “tech” or not to “tech”…

There are a lot of opinions out there about the use of technology among young children.  If you are a parent and frequent any of the parenting groups on Facebook, Reddit or elsewhere, you will always see the same questions…

  • How much TV should my child watch?
  • Should I buy my 4 year old an iPad?
  • What apps are good for my 5 year old?

And so on.

And then there are the articles.  Huffington Post gives 10 reasons why handheld devices should be banned for children under 12. It’s a bit old, but still timely.  Business Insider talks about Silicon Valley parents raising their kids tech free.  And of course, Inc fills us in on the fact that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates raised their own kids tech free.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children under 18 months have absolutely no exposure to screens, and until 5 years old, they recommend that all exposure is supervised by a caregiver.  But we are all busy parents, living in a non-ideal world, where sometimes an electronic babysitter is helpful.  What’s a parent to do?

As parents, it’s important that you make the choices that work for your family.  What works for mine, isn’t necessarily the best choice for yours.  Make sure, however, that you are making educated choices, based on your values and experience, as well as research as needed.  There is a lot of information out there, and it’s important to look at both the good and the bad before making a choice.

As a guideline, I’m always happy to share what we do in our family.  With a mom as a tech educator, it’s not realistic for me to keep my kids away from screens, but I am certainly not the most liberal one around.  My kids are not allowed screens on school nights.  As they get older, that has shifted, of course, because they might have homework to type up, or a video to watch for class.  As we move forward, the line between education and entertainment is getting blurred, and as a parent and an educator, I think it’s important to be aware and to embrace it.  But I don’t want my son spending 3 hours watching other people play Minecraft (yes, it’s a thing) or watching other people open Pokemon boxes (also a thing).  There needs to be a balance between online and offline activities.

That said, between my 3 kids, there is often someone dancing, swimming, playing hockey, playing basketball, doing some sort of art or craft…they are busy kids, and actively engaged in offline activities.  Spending time on a weekend playing video games isn’t the worst thing in the world, as long as it is just one of many different activities, and doesn’t replace real life activities.

We live in the 21st century, and technology isn’t going away. Far from banning our children from using the devices we so covet, we need to teach them to manage their online presence and their online activities.  If we don’t teach the to use technology wisely when they are young, they won’t be able to use technology wisely when they are older.

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