The other day I was told a story about a three year old girl who was given a book. She opened the book and she tried to press it. She then started sliding her finger to get the pages to move. She continued pressing, sliding, scrolling and got increasingly frustrated when nothing happened. This child had never seen a real book before. Her only experience of books had been electronic. I haven’t made this up even though I wish I had. This was told to me by someone who knew the little girl, while we were discussing technology and kids. And that got me thinking, how much tech is too much but also is there such a thing as too little?
People often ask me if I let Anya use my ipad and other devices and how much I let her use them. The answer is yes, I do let her use the devices but there are rules and restrictions. Since I’m asked a lot I thought I would share some of the things I do to limit her use of iphones and ipads. I do believe that our kids are growing up in an age where technology is everywhere and that they need to be exposed to it as it is so much a part of our lives. And there are a lot of good things about technology so I want it to be a part of her life but not take over and or become her main source of entertainment. So here are a few things I do to limit her ipad time:
1. She has to ask before using the ipad/iphone. She can’t just help herself!
2. We treat the ipad like a treat! So just like any treat, she knows that it’s not something she can have everyday but instead it’s something that can only be used once in a while. But I never use it as a reward.
3. If she asks for it when I don’t think she should have it, I suggest another activity rather than just saying no. So I’ll suggest colouring, dressing up or anything else that she loves doing and this often works because thankfully children forget easily! Or if that fails, I will suggest reading together or something else we can do together.
4. When she does get to use it, I usually limit her time and tell her that upfront. Then when times up, it’s up. Sticking to your resolve really counts here because the inevitable ‘5 more minutes, please, please, please’ will always happen. (Of course , there are times I’ve given in to extra time especially when I’ve got stuff to do myself – naughty mama!).
5. Buy books. Lots of them – story books, activity books, colouring books. And keep books accessible so your kids can reach them easily. I’ve found that a new book for Anya is far more exciting than a new app.
6. There are certain situations where I don’t allow the ipad at all like mealtimes and car journeys because once you allow it, I think it can easily become the norm. So sticking to never is easier for me and for Anya because she doesn’t ever expect it at these times.
7. Obviously don’t buy them their own device because that’s just asking for trouble. This might sound very obvious but I actually know 5, 6, 7 year old kids who have their own ipad and it never fails to shock me no matter how many times I come across a kid with one.
There is one exception I make to all the above and that’s when she wants to listen to music because she loves music. Right now the ipad and iphone are our only sources of music so if she wants to listen to something I never stop her. In fact I encourage it.
We all know kids learn by example so the amount of screen time you have will have an influence. I rarely watch TV but I am guilty of spending too much time on my laptop and this has naturally influenced Anya and her tech consumption. I’m trying to make sure that once she comes home from school I shut off and then do anything pending after she’s gone to bed. There are days when I manage this but there are others where I fail miserably. What can I say – I’m still a work in progress!
Having said all that, there are times when rules go out the window. I’m not perfect at following my rules and especially recently with all our house renovation upheaval she has had more ipad time than I would have normally allowed. But sometimes you just have to do what makes life easier and not feel guilty about it.
What do you do to limit your kids screentime? Any tips for all of us? Or do you prefer your kids never to use ipads and iphones? I’d love to hear in the comments.
P.S. This is a fun book on tech vs. real books to read with kids.