Digital Parenting: Battle of the Gadgets

digital parenting

The Digital Parenting Divide

Technology helps us in many ways, but it can also hurt us. Ask a parent what they think of their toddler’s–or fast forward, their teen’s–use of cell phones or tablets and you’re sure to spark a controversial debate. Are these devices helping our children learn faster or are they limiting their social skills? Or both? As with most things in life, our home has found a balance.

Before I explain more about how we manage our toddler’s tech time, let’s acknowledge that computers will be part of every child’s schoolwork and career. Many private (and public) schools provide an iPad or computer in the first grade—or not long after. Computers and other mobile devices come with a responsibility, which is great to instill at a young age!

toddler tech

Asher’s recent 3-year-old portraits featured our iPad.

I try to take advantage of every positive opportunity our smartphones and computers have available for young minds. We have an ABC subscription and easily access phonics videos on YouTube.

Our ‘digital parenting’ style is not overly rigid, but some things must be enforced. For a bit of balance, we’ve established no-tech times while we have the parental control over our toddler’s access to devices:

  • No devices between lunchtime and naptime
  • No digital after dinner

Our son probably gets about one cumulative hour of tech time per day. With the exception of an occasional Disney movie or live surfing contest in the evening with Mom and Dad. By limiting our toddler’s screen time, we hope he gets the educational benefit and the cognitive development of ‘old school’ flash cards and other activities, like playing with stickers or a Polaroid camera. Check out our earlier post on creative non-digital gifts for toddlers. Plus, for birthdays and holidays, I encourage him to handwrite thank you and holiday cards.

Although it seems like parents will eventually surrender to the Gadget Battle, for now we try to use it as a bargaining chip. It is much easier to offer five minutes on an iPad and avoid a 30-minute meltdown. (Don’t let our little one know this!)

Curious how you answer a question that is still a few years off for us: How old will your child be when they get a mobile phone?

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