Safe and appropriate use of technology for children

    Technology is a large part of our children’s worlds now, from toddlers to teens; it is being used for enjoyment, social connection, education, communication and convenience both at home and at school.

    While there is a range of benefits associated with technology, there is growing concern over the increasing amount of time children spend with technology and the impact it has on their physical and social skills and health, not to mention concern over the content and interactions they might be exposed to.

    Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules (sorry), and with the fast paced technological advances and increased access, the line today will likely be different than in a week, a month, or a year from now. Ultimately you will need to just draw a line in the sand based on your child’s age, personality, behaviour, any diagnosis or disorders present, your family situation, your values, and be open to renegotiating that line based on the constant movement of these and other relevant factors.

    In helping with the negotiation of these boundaries though, here are some signs that your child’s use of technology is negatively affecting them, and some basic guidelines the government has released.

    Firstly, the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing has released a set of guidelines based on available research and examination of statistics surrounding the topic. They suggest in terms of use of technology such as TV, electronic games, electronic media etc:

    • children under 2 - not spend any time watching TV or using electronics
    • children between 2-5 years - should be limited to less than one hour a day
    • children 5 years and older - should be limited to 2 hours or less.

    These are just guidelines, with the time recommendations aimed towards the use of technology for entertainment purposes, so excluding educational use. In terms of laws restricting or regulating use of certain types of technology by children, besides age restrictions on certain sites in terms of creating profiles or viewing content, the responsibility is largely on the user and parent.

    In relation to assessing signs of technology overuse in your child, here are some key indicators that may flag a need for change. Your child may:

    • be spending large amounts of time consumed and preoccupied with technology, which may impact on his/her time to complete other daily tasks
    • withdraw from previously enjoyed activities such as playing with their siblings and playing outside
    • withdraw from family and friends
    • be saying things like "I’m bored" or "lost" without technology
    • be becoming very tired and irritable as a consequence of staying up late or waking through the night or early morning to use technology
    • request or demand technology during mealtimes
    • be spending time surfing the internet with a lack of purpose
    • become angry or distressed when limits to technology use are attempted
    • find technology use is impacting negatively on their grades and school work
    • be reporting an increased preference with socialising online
    • engage in unsafe technology use, for example, making friends with strangers.

    So ultimately, like most parental decisions, it’s within your discretion as to what boundaries and restrictions you put on technology use in your household. There is no right or wrong answer, and it’s likely there will differences in your household rules in comparison to other families, merely as a response to different dynamics, factors and individuals present. As long as you keep an eye out for potential negative effects, and monitor and adjust use in line with your situational factors and your child’s behaviour and functioning, you are doing your best to make the best decisions for your child and your family.

    Author: Rachel Webb, Churches of Christ Children Youth and Families

    Posted August 30, 2016 in Blog