I have no issues letting my children use technology. I am a dad who loves sharing tech with his kids. I think it’s great that my kids want to play with it, but I also want their tech playtime to be educational – not just full of SpongeBob SquarePants videos.
My 4 year old daughter loves playing on her tablet, which is my old tablet. The tablet is stripped down with an app locker added – this way, apps are locked so she can’t access the Internet, YouTube, email, Netflix, etc. I also added a thick, pink silicone case. Recently, I showed her that we have a keyboard dock for the tablet. Now it’s no longer her “tablet,” but her “computer” or “laptop.” She loves to sit next to mom or dad and type on the keyboard – or work on her “texts” as she likes to call it.
But back to her tablet use. When it comes to installing apps, I tend to be pretty selective. I’ve added some great memory games as well as letter and word games. But I’ve also installed a few “fluff” games – some of her favorites are a cooking game, a baby care app and a pet care app.
Which do you think she prefers?
Despite my better wishes, my daughter sways toward the “fluff” games that offer little to no educational value. And some of those apps are pure bait designed to purchase other games or in-app purchases. Also, I recently installed the YouTube Kids App, and now all she wants to do is watch clips. I can’t blame her. But streaming video after video wasn’t our intention with giving her the tablet.
So how do we strike a balance?
For starters, we track her overall screen time. We also put limits on that time. And at four years old, we feel like screen time is still something special. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of her everyday routine. For instance, there are days when she asks to play on her tablet and we simply say no. (Like on bright, sunny days when we’re all better off running and playing outside.)
Additionally, we monitor her use and recognize that it’s a tool for us to use together. My plan tonight… and in the next few days, is to sit with my daughter and remove some apps that are complete rubbish and find educational games that interest her. In short, I include her in the process.
I am amazed to see how she gets around the tablet and easily does things – like look at the list of recently used apps and close them out, or click the cancel button when an app wants her to buy something (mind you, the Google Play Store is locked so that she can’t actually buy anything without my assistance). She says the app is teasing her if it keeps trying to get her to purchase an upgrade or another app.
While technology is wonderful, we need to protect our kids. It’s challenging to find the right balance between supporting my little tech natives’ curiosity with technology, and gauging when enough is enough… like when the real paints and paint brushes need to come out and the paint app needs to close down.