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5 Do’s (not Don’ts) of Technology for Kids

In an attempt to warn our kids of potential dangers of the digital world, we may be tempted to remind them of all the ways they should not use technology. We might say things like : “Don’t spend so much time on your tablet.” “Don’t watch so many videos.” Or, “Don’t play video games for so long.”

“If we really want to help young people develop healthy digital skills, it’s important that we remember to focus on the ‘do’s’ of digital behaviors over the ‘don’ts.’”

Learning to use technology in healthy ways is a complex skill that must be practiced. After all, we don’t teach other complex skills, like playing the piano or participating in a sport, by telling kids what not to do. Instead, we help them practice the skills we want them to develop. This approach is the path we should follow when helping children learn how to develop critical skills for the digital world.

These five simple tips can make a big difference when it comes to practicing and modeling healthy digital habits:

Shift from screen time to screen value.

Rather than focusing on how much time a kid is spending online, shift the focus to evaluating how valuable their digital activities are.

  • Are the activities encouraging creation or just passive media consumption?
  • Do the activities connect them with friends or isolate them?
  • Do they help them learn new skills or are the tasks repetitive?

Digital activities that add value should have more time allotted than those that provide little value.

“This shift from focusing on 'screen time' to 'screen value' helps children recognize that not all digital activities are created equal just because they are on a screen.”

Spend time online together.

For younger kids who are just beginning to explore digital tools, spend time doing activities together. This might include watching a video, looking at family pictures, or reading an ebook together. For kids who are already using technology, ask them to take you on a tour of their favorite digital activities. Let them show you their favorite apps, how to play the games they’re playing, or the sources they turn to when learning how to do something. Listen to why and how they use these tools.

“Be curious and seek to understand what online activities your kids enjoy and why.”

Ask for a recommendation of an app that they think you’d like or a social media creator they think you might enjoy following.

Create a device use agreement.

Consider outlining a family device use agreement that explains how and when your kids should use digital devices. This agreement should also spell out what privileges may be added if the child uses devices in accordance with the agreement and what the consequences are if agreed-upon expectations aren’t met.

“You can also agree to tech-free times for your family, such as during family meals.”

Check out Noggin’s Weekly Screen-Time Planner.

Learn to evaluate new apps.

When deciding which apps to download to your kids’ devices, it’s helpful to consider a few questions to determine if the app makes sense for them. Before downloading, ask:

  • Who does the app connect my child with?
  • Are there ads on the app?
  • What is the app teaching my child?
  • Is my child’s information protected?
  • Does the app align with my child’s abilities?

Model healthy tech use.

With just a bit of modeling by parents, curious learners begin to recognize the digital world as an access point to a super-powerful learning library, not just an entertainment machine.

Modeling digital learning can happen anytime. When a child finds an interesting bug, try asking, “What type of bug do you think this is?” or “How many different types of bugs do you think there are in the world?” Questions like these turn a mundane moment into a digital learning opportunity. It gives you a chance to learn more about it online, read ebooks, watch videos about bugs or find fun nature activities! Plus, it’s a chance to model a healthy balance of offline and online activities. Let kids see that you work and play in the physical world and the digital world.

By sharing do’s of digital citizenship and modeling healthy digital skills, you can help create the conditions for your kids to thrive in digital spaces and prepare them for a successful future in both digital and physical worlds.

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Since its first historic performance in 1958, Ailey has been innovating and evolving the perception of American modern dance throughout the world. Noggin is honored to partner with them in helping kids all over get up moving, learning, and expressing their feelings through dance. Because movement has meaning when we dance how we’re feeling!