Sometimes it seems easier to just give the kids their smartphones and tablets and call it a day. Especially when you’ve been gone all day, there’s a mountain of laundry waiting on you, just as many dishes, and you still have to make dinner. It happens.
Most of us have been guilty of this at least once. I know I have. Probably more than I care to admit. But… in all honesty, this is neither healthy nor safe for kids. Kids want the freedom to be online, but they also need boundaries and to know that those boundaries will be enforced. This, combined with your family’s routine, will aid in deciding what the best times of day for kids to use technology.
Now, there are no black and white answers to this question. It’s really going to depend on your wishes as a parent, your family’s daily routine and schedule, and the age of your child. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when determining the best time of day for your kids to be on his or her smartphone, tablet, that gaming system, or any other form of technology. Open communication with all members of the family should be a priority. There should be time limits and schedules established and with clear boundaries. It’s also important to stick to your guns on the rules and enforce them. All members of your family should know exactly what is expected of them while using their various forms of technology, as well as, the consequences if they break the rules.
Kids these days use technology almost constantly. Whether for school, to chat with their friends or play games, technology has become the new norm. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon so it makes sense for parents to wonder what is the best time of day for their kids to be using their technology.
Have an open line of communication The first, and probably most important thing to do as a parent, is to establish an open line of communication with your kids. This way you can talk to them about what they are doing on their devices. Whether they are researching something for a subject in school, chatting with their friends, playing online games or watching videos and listening to music, building an open channel of communication with your kids will keep them safe and help you determine the best time of day for them to use technology. This will also be key when coming up with routines, establishing and enforcing rules and the consequences if a rule is broken.
The family schedule and routine After you’ve achieved an overall open communication, try having a family meeting to discuss everyone’s daily routines. Your family routine will also play a huge part in determining when your kids should use technology. Work and school schedules will probably weigh in the most. Don’t forget to include family meals, homework and any extra curricular activities into your decision.
Recommended time limits for kids Research shows most teenagers spend an average of nine hours in front of some sort of screen, whether it’s the tv, family computer or their beloved smartphone. The average is about six hours for kids ages eight through 12 and about an hour for babies and younger kids between the ages of zero and eight.
The American Hospital Association suggests one hour time limits for 2-5 year olds and two hour time limits for kids over the age of 5. Technology is not recommended for babies 18 months and younger, with the exception of video chatting.
The good news is that quite a few kid-friendly apps and devices have timers you can set that will turn them off when you tell it to. It has been a life-saver for my daughter and me. Her tablet lets me determine what hours she can play on it. She isn’t allowed to use her tablet until she’s done with her lessons and cleaned her room, so I have it set up for availability between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. At 5:30, her tablet says “That’s It For Today” and locks her out. She argues, whines and cries usually, but when the tablet says you’re done, you’re done.
How should my kids be using technology? This will depend on their age. Preschoolers can use technology to take pictures, create animated videos and play age-appropriate games. They can also learn educational fundamentals such as the alphabet, numbers and shapes. Grade school kids and pre-teens can use technology to research their favorite hobby or read books. They can learn coding and programming, get help with their school work and chat with friends. The possibilities are endless, as long as they’re monitored by an adult. Technology doesn’t have to be a bad thing for kids.
Establishing clear rules when using technology Establishing boundaries is going to be imperative when deciding the best time of day for your kids to use their technology. It will be important for you, as the parent, to make sure each of your kids know and understand the boundaries. Writing them out and putting them where the kids will be using their devices the most is a great way to make sure the rules are always followed.
How do I enforce the rules? It’s a pretty well-known fact around my house that I am admittedly horrible at enforcing rules. But when it comes to my kids’ online time, I am the strict enforcer. First of all, they knew the rules and time limits before their devices, games, apps, or whatever were even turned on for the first time. They are full aware of all the rules and boundaries. And, all of my kids know what the consequences are if they break the rules for using their devices. Remember to be strict, but fair. Recognize that while you are the parent and they are the kids, you should make all attempts to follow the rules set forth as well.
Enforcing the rules is so important. It doesn’t do anyone (especially kids) any good if you are going to establish a line of communication, set time limits and rules and then don’t enforce them. I’ve always heard that kids want boundaries as much as they need them. If you’re looking for a place to start, here it is.
Ways to reduce time on devices You’ve decided to call a family meeting (or whatever your family chooses to do to communicate with each other) to discuss the rules for use of technology in your home. Great! Except, now the kids are looking straight through you with that dreaded blank look or are whining because yesterday these rules didn’t exist and they want back on their devices until bedtime. Ugh. What now?
Now would be a great time to set up a “technology free” area in your house. Maybe someplace everyone gathers as a family, like the dining room or living room. Just make sure the family is aware that the space is technology free. So, if they want to hang out in the dining room while you’re cooking dinner and their phone rings, they can either ignore the call or take it in another room.
Also, encouraging exercise will get the kids moving and maybe even outside for awhile. Find out what types of outdoor activities or sports your kids enjoy. If you can get them signed up in something, great! If not, let them play in the backyard or have them take turns timing each other running around the block. If they’re moving, they are more likely to forget about that online game they’ve been playing with their friends. And with the fresh air they’ll be getting, your kids just might go to bed easier and on time.
Schedule reading time for the kids. Research recommends that kids read about 20 minutes per day. It’ll develop their reading skills, improve their imagination and it just might get them off that tablet for a while.
And, as long as you have these open lines of communication going with your kids, take the time to talk to them about online dangers. If they are like my kids, they’ll roll their eyes the whole time, but it’s definitely a conversation worth having.
Sticking to the rules yourselves, as adults, will show your kids you don’t put yourself above them. I get it, adults need their smartphones, laptops, tablets and computers as much as the kids do these days, especially for work or school. But unplugging your devices, too, just might bring everyone together long enough to have a decent conversation once in awhile. Wouldn’t that be nice?
To wrap it up, only you and your family can decide what time of day your kids should use their technology. Keep open communication, set rules and boundaries and then enforce them. Good luck!