Kids and Technology: How Much Is Too Much?

I don’t know about you, but this is something I have struggled with since before my daughter was born.  How much technology is too much for your kids? Or, is it possible for them to not get enough? Should kids use technology every day?  The questions could go on and on.

I will admit right from the beginning, I do NOT have answers to these questions.  I am not even sure if there are “correct” answers out there. I have opinions and experiences, and that is what helps guide my daughter’s use of technology.

Our children are growing up in a much different world than when you and I grew up.  Sure, we had TVs, VHS, CDs… then DVDs and iPods. But, nothing like today. Today, our lives revolve around technology.  I mean, think about how easily we can share our unique stories and ideas, without ever meeting each other. It really is pretty fascinating!

Ok, back to the kids… when my daughter was born, I really didn’t know where to start with technology.  At one of my daughter’s early check-ups, we asked our pediatrician his opinion. He suggested we avoid any form of screen time.  Of course, us watching TV in the background was not a problem. But, there was no reason to sit her in front of a screen for entertainment.

We went along with this for many months.  I wish I could remember exactly when things changed, but she was at least one before we tried using technology as entertainment.  I may even venture to say she was closer to 18 months. At first, she didn’t show any interest in it, but I am sure that was because she was never exposed to any of it.  

However, once my daughter became more familiar with the TV, or my phone, and eventually an iPad, I was AMAZED at how quickly she understood it and was able to use each device.  To be quite honest, it scared me a bit! These things I learned as a young adult were so naturally obtained by my two year old daughter.

These observations got me thinking.  They got me thinking about how important it is for kids to learn technology.  We all know technology is only going to continue to grow and amaze us each year.  It is an essential piece to a quality education, and I realized my daughter definitely needed exposure to these skills.  Otherwise, she won’t be able to keep up in society!

So, now the controversial thoughts of no screen time versus the importance of technology has encouraged me to find some kind of happy balance, somewhere in between.

We recently discovered the Amazon Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition.  For us, it has been one of the BEST discoveries, and one of our BEST tech purchases.  (My husband actually gets the credit for discovery here!)

Prior to this, we allowed our daughter to play on an old iPad, with limited time each day.  Not my favorite! Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some great educational apps and games out there.  However, once my daughter found YouTube Kids, my hopes of positive tech experiences dwindled. Again, there are some great kid videos on YouTube, but they are far and few between (my opinion, of course).  I can’t stand some of the videos. They just seem plain dumb. My daughter was watching videos of no importance or value to her. It was very frustrating!

We tried blocking particular videos, allowing her to play only chosen apps/games, but it still just didn’t seem like an appropriate tech venue for my two year old daughter.

The Amazon Kindle I was just telling you about,  has created an amazing change for my daughter’s tech experiences, and my happiness as a parent. (My husband feels the same!)

It comes loaded with books, movies, games, APPROPRIATE web videos, and more! You can set time limits for each individual tech venue (i.e. books or games), or you can set a general time limit for the day (ex: 1 hour).

I assumed once we bought her the Amazon Kindle Fire she would be hitting all of her daily limits, and it would be a great learning lesson for her.  However, the opposite has happened. She isn’t constantly begging to play on her Kindle, which I love and hate at the same time. Again, being torn between its’ importance and too much tech time.

I am not exactly sure why she doesn’t desire the need to constantly be on a device anymore (I swear there is something strangely addicting about those YouTube videos), but I am not complaining.  Especially since she isn’t watching those awful videos! (Can you tell I am not a fan? Ha!)

But, on the other hand, let’s be honest moms, sometimes you just need your kids to play on an iPad or Kindle.  Am I right? Like, when I am trying to make dinner and everyone is asking me a million questions, crowding the kitchen.  Or, maybe when I need to fit in a workout, or take a shower. We all have done it at some point or another. At least I think so… Haven’t you?

I do have a couple tech rules I like to follow. We try to avoid all screen time at meals, especially when we are out to eat.  Twice, I have allowed my daughter to look at pictures and videos on my phone, while at a restaurant. Once, when we were out with some friends from Michigan, it was late, and we wanted to stay a little longer because we only see these friends a couple times a year. (Also breaking our bedtime schedule – yikes! What a night that must have been! Haha!)  The second time…. I really don’t remember why, but I know it happened. Ha!

Another rule I like to live by is tech time must be less than other activity time.  If my daughter spent an entire day playing with her friends at the park and pool, then I don’t mind her relaxing with some Kindle time later in the evening.  To be honest, sometimes I encourage it. However, if it has been a low key day, not much movement or activity, I try to encourage some other type of play before tech time.

What do you think? Do you think kids should be allowed a particular time on tech devices every day?  Like I said, I don’t have the answers. It is all trial and error. I might be completely wrong, but I am doing what seems to work for us.

Now, we spend time together reading books on her Kindle.  You already know my passion for reading with your kids, and bringing in the technology piece adds another dimension.  She asks for help with particular games, and both my husband and I enjoy working with her as she learns and grows.

In what ways are your children allowed to use technology?  How often? I would love to hear from you. What rules or ideas do you have about technology and your children?

I feel like I could continue this discussion for a while, but I will leave you here.  Share your thoughts below. Let us know what you think!

Erica

XO

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