How to encourage technology literacy without screen addiction

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Most parents agree that there are advantages of technology in education. Of course, we want our kids to be digitally literate, but we also worry that our about our children are becoming too focused on technology and believe that limiting screen time is an important rule in our household. It can be hard to draw a line between the importance of technology literacy as well as the importance of limiting screen time for kids. While I’m sure we can all agree that mindlessly consuming media via technology is probably not a productive use of anyone’s time – the reality is that tech literacy can teach valuable skills for young people.

Let’s evaluate screen time for kids

Before we burn all the iPads, it’s important to take a step back and really look at what your child is doing online. If what they are doing online helping them to be technically literate? What content are they viewing? If they’re spending their time reading, developing meaningful relationships, or learning new skills that could be a very productive use of time. If they’re spending six hours a night in a YouTube spiral – well – that could be very different or not. I taught myself to code and learn content marketing via YouTube videos. It’s all about context!

We should also be taking context into account as well as the unique attributes of your child. Some kids will become obsessive with different forms of technology and other kids could not be bothered. Ultimately, technology is a tool not just a form of entertainment or learning outcome. Technology is what you make of it. By teaching your kids how to use technology safely, creatively, and effectively you’re helping them to build valuable digital literacy skills.

Teaching kids to code is one of the best ways to teach kids importance computer literacy skills that will be valuable for their future. You can get started by checking out our ultimate guide to teaching kids to code here.

How to Encourage Technology Literacy for Kids

Encourage project based games

Instead of the old PowerPoint slide deck, design a real-world project or task to help your kids see the importance of technology in education. By making it into a game, it will be easy for them learn the program or skill you’re trying to teach. Using the spreadsheet for example, you can help your older kids learn to manage their allowance through simple Excel functions. Or a slightly less boring example could be helping your kids create and upload YouTube challenge videos. Through the creation, they’ll learn how to storyboard ideas, how to cooperate for a mutual goal, how to edit and upload video files, and how to market digital assets through social media. This activity is scalable to most ages and is learning cleverly disguised as fun.

Discuss Your Child’s Digital Footprint

In the age of the Internet meme, exploring the concept of a digital footprint is extremely important to your child’s mental health and wellbeing. Having conversations centered around the permanency of social media is an important part of how to become technologically literate. Focus the conversation on the pros and cons of having an active internet presence.

Have conversations about digital safety

When I say digital safety I mean modern internet safety. It’s just not realistic to say that most people will never meet someone from the internet in real life anymore. Most kids, especially teenagers are savvy enough to know this is true. Focus the conversations around digital literacy. What are the warning signs that someone is dangerous? How can you tell that a social media profile is fake? What personal information should you avoid disclosing online? For older kids, having conversations about how to safely meet an online friend is also important. While it may not be necessary in high school, it will most likely happen in college for them or a friend.

Google has an awesome program called “Be Internet Awesome” that teaches kids and young adults about internet safety using an interactive game.

Encourage technology toys that teach

Speaking of fun, there are tons of STEM-based toys on the market that encourage literacy in technology by creating, building, and developing tangible skills through activities that are not centered on a screen but rather adjacent to a screen. Some ideas include these awesome smartphone-controlled tanks or this circuit based puzzle game. By introducing tech toys into your household you’re able to teach your kids about the practical applications of real life products and activities.

You can check out the top technology and engineering toys here.

The internet can be great. Lots of people have built businesses, learned new skills, met their spouse, and nurtured new interests via the internet. Isn’t Facebook great for sharing family updates with Grandma? How awesome is it that we can store all our family photos on the cloud for everyone to share? Let’s be honest, the internet makes our lives easier and provides us with an endless supply of information. When you present the conversation with purely scare tactics young people often shut down because they feel like they’re being spoken down towards. By acknowledging the benefits you’re more likely to have them listen to your suggestions.

Tips for limiting screen time for kids

Although we all agree that technology can be a powerful tool for young people, there is still a need to monitor and limit technology for kids. We polled parents regarding their best tips to encourage responsible screen time with their kids.

Make Use of Screen Time Parental Controls

“I’m not anti-video games; as a Mum myself who loves gaming, it would be hypocritical of me to outright ban my little ones from gaming. However, I see the benefits of reduced screen-time, and there are so many apps to monitor screen time built into modern consoles to help parents keep tabs on their little munchkins gaming habits.

The Nintendo Switch is the latest handheld from Nintendo and offers some amazing games to teach coding concepts (Nintendo Labo) alongside its more traditional games. Last year, Nintendo launched a screen time parent control app that gives you total insight and control into your little one’s playtime. You can impose timers that let your child know when they’ve been on for a specified time (and can even turn the console off if they frequently breach this). You can stop the system opening games over a certain age rating and can even ban access to the shop and internet. The app can be found here (Android) or here (iOS). PlayStation and Xbox offer apps to control screen time built into their systems.”

Charlotte from Mamma Makes Do

I recently bought an Amazon Kindle Fire for my 6 year old. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Amazon has included parental controls on these devices that make it quite easy to ensure your child isn’t getting more screen time than you want them to.

Once you’ve set up a profile for your child, you can assign them a usage time limit that lets you control how long your kid can use the tablet. Once they’ve reached their limit for the day, a message comes up telling the child that they’ve reached their quota. It prevents them from using the tablet further without the parent logging in and altering the usage limit.

What’s great is that you can also set a time limit for different content types, for example, books, videos and, apps.

Another plus is that I found all these apps to limit screen time settings pretty ​intuitive to use and easily accessible: all of the tablet’s basic parental controls can be turned on/off from one screen.

Clare from Epic Road Rides

Encourage your kids to set their own screen time rules

“My tip for limiting screen time is to allow children to get involved in setting their own boundaries. This works well for older children. When I realized my 11-year-old was having real problems turning off video games when asked to, I got some advice from a school mentor. 

The mentor suggested encouraging my son to think about what would help him stay calm about screen restrictions. Following this, we asked my son to write down the ideas he had about what would help.

His suggestions included ensuring all devices are put away when not in use and that he needs to ask permission before using them. They also included very clear restrictions on the amount of time he could play for. We have found he has been much more able to stick to the rules that he set himself and this has helped avoid stressful conflict. The ideas he wrote are pinned on the fridge and are reviewed and revisited as needed!”

Angela from Reading Inspiration

Consider one big chunk per week

When it comes to screen time and kids it’s all about scheduling and communicating. My son is 10 and LOVES playing video games. He and I discussed it and agreed to three hours a week of video game time. Rather than spread that out in smaller segments throughout the week he would prefer having one large chunk of time so he’s able to advance as far in the games as possible. 

We set aside three solid hours a week each Saturday. His younger siblings are napping and he’s able to play any of his mommy-approved video games for that entire three-hour time slot. 

Not only does this work well for limiting his screen time and avoiding any negative effects of too much time in front of screens, but it also prevents any back and forth struggles throughout the week. He knows when he’s getting his game time. He doesn’t ask for additional time throughout the week. There are no power struggles. No begging. No complaining. No tears. No “it’s not fair.”

We have a clear, well communicated, system and it works well for our family! As his siblings get older they are beginning to have blocks of video game time as well and he enjoys the opportunity to teach them about his favorite games and I love that screen time is transitioning into quality together bonding time between them as well! 

Emily from Journey of Parenthood

Implement Technology Free Zones

In our home, we believe technology is an amazing thing. The ability for kids to learn through fun and interactive games on tablets, phones, or computers is a wonderful opportunity that wasn’t around for earlier generations of children. Having the chance to be handson with technology can be a great way for our kids to learn if we keep limits in place!

When technology and screens are overused kids can start to regress from their natural imaginative and adventurous play. To prevent this, we implement technology-free zones that work great! 

For example, kids don’t use their iPads in their bedroom because this is a place for relaxation and sleep. We don’t allow tablets in the kitchen, either, since this is where we enjoy dining together. The basement is another place we keep off-limits for technology. We have most of the big toys, games, and active play items in the basement so when downstairs, it’s a great time to use your imagination and play freely! 

Setting these easy to understand boundaries keeps everyone on the same page. We never feel as though technology is being abused and yet the many benefits are still able to be enjoyed!

Libby from Because Mom Says

Have a consistent daily routine

Our son is only 5 but we’re hoping to teach him about responsible screen use from an early age. Since we’re homeschooling we’re using screens not only for relaxation, but for teaching as well. And we want to make sure he understands the difference. Unless we want to illustrate something with a video or use an app for teaching, the screens are off during the day. I expect this will change as he gets older and starts to use the tablet more for learning. When I start prepping for dinner this is when he can choose to either watch tv or play on the iPad ‘for fun’. Making dinner usually takes anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour each day, so that’s his screen ‘play’ time. Screen time ends when dinner is ready and we ask him to set the table. It varies how well that works, sometimes it’s so much fun that it’s hard for him turn it off and we have to help him a bit. 

Lisa from Flip Flop Globetrotters

We aim to limit our children’s’ use of screens by establishing a routine for using their kid’s tablets. Our children use their tablet very rarely when we are at home and they see their tablet as a device that is used when we are traveling.

At home there is a set routine of only using tablets first thing in the morning and whilst we are preparing the evening meal. They then know that once dinner is ready it has to go away until tomorrow. I am not trying to claim that there are never any complaints but generally, this works quite well.

Having the tablet when traveling comes in amazingly handy so the rules are a bit more relaxed and overall their use is a bit higher and on rare days when we are on a long flight it comes as a treat to have free reign to use it as much as they like!

We feel that overall the balance is quite good and they enjoy playing when they can but have not become so attached to their tablets that they refuse to ever put them down. They are still young so we will need to develop this strategy as they get older in order to realise all of the educational benefits that tablets can offer.

Chris from More Life in Your Days

Consider a Screen Time Timer

We embrace technology at our house, but aim to use it responsibly. The best way we have managed to limit or time the amount of screen time my kids have is to set a timer. Depending what they are doing it may be 15minutes or 30 minutes or even an hour if they are watching a movie or something like that. After the timer goes off they have an opportunity to save and close and then they go outside and jump on our trampoline or something else outdoors.

In order to avoid fighting or whining we actually set two timers. The first one will go off and then the second will go off  2 minutes later. This gives them the opportunity to save and close, or if they are playing a game with others, they have the opportunity to say goodbye etc. But when the second timer goes off their devices need to be put away, not a mad scramble to exit then. It works pretty well as we are consistent with it. Sometimes I get a bit of pushback as they do not want to stop, but they know they will not get it back if they complain about it.

Lindsay from My Trampoline Kids

Establish Trade Offs for Screen Time

“In our house, we accomplish screen time limits by ‘tradeoffs’. For example, I might say, ‘You can watch an episode once your toys are picked up and put away’. So then the kids know that they have to clean up in order to use the TV. However, it goes much further than just chores. We also want to communicate to them that fun experiences can be balanced with screen time. So another example would be communicating to them that once we arrive at our destination, the phone gets put away. They are aware of this before we ever give them their tablet, so when we park the car, the tablet gets turned off. (Even if they are in the middle of a game or show.)

The most important part of this is being consistent and doing the same thing ourselves. I tell the kids, ‘We will go play outside, and then when we come back in, I will work on the laptop and you can play with your tablets for 30 minutes. Then we all need to make dinner.’ This way we can have screen time throughout the day and the limits don’t make the kids feel like they are being rewarded or punished- it’s just part of our routine to balance screen time with regular life.”

Charisty from Fire Dept Family

My kids have finally reached the age where they start comparing themselves to their peers and missing out on screen time wasn’t going to fly anymore. It took a bit of brainstorming and trial and error to come up with a system that is working well for our family. 

Now to have screen time the kids need to do a chore to earn credits. I am a big believer in everyone helping with chores just as part of being a member of a family, so I have always avoided paying for chores. The chores that are done are above and beyond what is expected, things like cleaning the car, polishing shoes, sweeping out the garage and cleaning the coffee machine. The kids get the iPad time and learn about earning through work. 

I pay them in quarters which go straight into a labeled jar. My son wanted to buy a new game and by himself asked if he could save his iPad money and exchange it for a game rather than time. I love that he was able to plan and delay gratification to work towards something that he valued. 

Kaylie from Happiness Travels Here

Screen time for Toddlers

“Responsible screen use is very important when we have screens EVERYWHERE around us. As a former high school teacher, I was seeing the effect first hand of having a generation that was unwilling to think for themselves, since they were used to having information at their fingertips.

I do, however, think that screens are important, and are very beneficial. Instead of avoiding screens in our house, we teach that they are valuable learning tools. The reality is that they are very valuable and teach in unique and wonderful ways.

Our daughter has been using a tablet since she was 1 year old. The only thing she uses on the tablet are apps that I’ve downloaded for learning purposes.

We actually incorporate screen time use as a part of her daily schedule. The educational value is phenomenal in that she gets immediate feedback on how she is doing with a concept, and it is incredibly engaging for her. Incorporating it into her schedule both limits the use (without actually setting limits), and promotes the positive educational use.”

Katrina from Mama’s Organized Chaos

My son is 3, so we’re just starting to wade into the whole screen time thing… for right now, we don’t have explicit time limits, but we do have other rules. One is no screen time in the morning on weekdays, since we’re all trying to get ready for work and school – this is our biggest rule, because morning screen time has a way of derailing the start of our day!

The second rule is no screen time right before bed. He can have a show or two after school depending on how long dinner prep takes, but screen time right before bed has a way of derailing bedtime (notice a theme here?).

The third rule is that it has to have an educational slant so we can talk with him about what he learned while he was watching (or playing, if it was a game)… and so we feel less guilty!

Mary Beth from a Reluctant Mom.

Offer alternatives to screen time

“We prefer to ‘manage’ our 7-year-old daughter’s screen time rather than ‘restrict’ it by filling her time with plenty of activities that are more attractive than screen time. She particularly enjoys swimming, riding or using her jumping castle, so we balance her screen time with plenty of these activities.

If we were to actively restrict her screen time, we believe we’d be making it more desirable and difficult to manage. Think of it this way: the moment you go on a diet and ban chocolate you want it so much more than normal — and then it’s easy to cave and binge. Whereas if you have healthy, delicious meals on offer and chocolate is not banned, then it’s easy to choose healthy options over chocolate. We treat screen time the same way. By offering plenty of fun alternatives, she gets the power to choose what activity she’d like to engage in. This means screen time is just another activity, not a restricted one.

The key to managing her use of screens is balance and choice. She still gets to watch the television or play on the tablet, but most of the time she’d rather go outside and play.”

Lisa at Run Eat Sleep Repeat

Pin for Later!

Teach kids the importance of digital literacy and computer literacy! You can strike a balance between the educational benefits of screen use and avoiding screen addiction with these screen time tips. Technology is important in education and many careers require computer literacy for success. Teach your kids how to enjoy technology and learn from it as well. #education #technology #screentime
Screens are everywhere and are harder and harder to avoid. Learn practical tips for responsible screen use with kids. These screen time tips strike a balance between the importance of technology literacy with the importance of going 'unplugged'. The best screen time tips and ideas are found here. #technology #screentime #parenting
Screen time doesn't have to be a battle! Learn our favourite tips to make screen time manageable and educational. Screen time can be valuable, it is important for kids to learn digital literacy. We share the best screen time tips that parents can use to engage their kids in meaningful time on their screens. #parentingtips #parenting #technology #screentime

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