A young boy holding a banana

Access to Technology, Screen Time and Parenting – Our Experience

January 17, 2019

When it comes to the discussion of whether or not to introduce technology to our children, there will always be divided opinion on this. Whether you are discussing with friends, family or braving the question in a parenting forum. So many factors come into play when deciding whether or not your child should have access to technology. From the age of the child, the technology that they will be able to access and the big one… how much screen time should they be allowed?

A young boy holding a banana

Access to Technology

Today it’s a common occurrence to see a young child or even a toddler utilising a tablet or smartphone. Whether you are in a restaurant, sitting in an airport lounge, or even at an after-school activity. Whilst you might look on and assume that they have been given access to Mum or Dad’s device to keep them occupied whilst they are waiting for food, transport or an older sibling. The results from a new survey released by Legal & General reveal that these devices may, in fact, be owned by the children.

With 38% of millennial parents confessing to buying their child their own tablet before the age of 4. Whilst a fifth of the children received their own smartphone before their fourth birthday. Which feels young to me, whilst I can appreciate that might be having access to technology. I’m not convinced that they need to own their own devices at such an early age.

The survey highlighted that 58% of millennial parents feel pressured into buying a device for their child. Which is quite a high figure, however, I feel that this is dependant on the age of their child. A younger child might wish to own their device, however, having a family device that they can regularly access might put off this financial outlay for a while longer.

On the flip side this I can understand a parent of tween the benefits of them owning their own smartphone. We had hoped to delay a smartphone purchase for Roo until she started high school, however, we opted to buy her one a year earlier for two reasons. Firstly, she was able to go out on our estate with friends to the park etc. and we wanted to keep in touch with her. Secondly, was a little to do with peer pressure, as all her classmates had their own phones and she was the only one who didn’t.

A woman looking at her cell phone

What technology can they access?

Although the survey doesn’t highlight the content that the children are accessing. It does suggest that the research shows that devices are now the primary form of entertainment for children, more so than even TV. With parents using them increasingly to keep their children quiet.

The downside to this is that over a third of parents think that device usage has had a negative impact on their child’s irritability. With a quarter agreeing that their child’s aggression and communication was also negatively affected.

As a parent, I have bigger concerns over what content they are able to access rather than the amount of content they access. With many parents allowing children free rein to watch whatever they want on YouTube. As well as inappropriate age content on other apps and games. As parents we need to be looking at the types of content our children are wanting to access and assess whether it is appropriate for them.

For example, my children do not have access to YouTube, however, theyhave their own profiles set up on Netflix and the Sky Kids app to allow them access to the TV shows and movies that they love. Alongside games and activities – all which are age-appropriate.

A little boy sitting on a bed

How much screen time?

The amount of screen time children are allowed each day/week is a controversial subject. With some families opting to enforce a screen time regime, whilst others are happy to allow free access to devices and content.

The survey revealed that 63% of children use a smartphone every day. With 44% of parents worried about the amount of screen time impacts on their child’s school work, with 29% agreeing that device usage has had a negative impact on their child’s obedience.

It’s not all bad news, Legal & General have outlined some ways in which you can counter the negative effects of too much screen time, which you can read here.

Our screen time restrictions are a day on, day off routine. Allowing them to access content on alternate days whilst still appreciating the other areas of childhood like LEGO, board games, playing outside etc. Which works well for us as a family.

What’s your experience of access to technology for your children?

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