Responsible Use of Electronics with Young Children

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By Kelly Leavitt – June 11, 2024 –

As a Youth First Social Worker, I interact with children in an elementary school setting daily. Most students I serve have the world readily available with electronics such as cell phones, tablets, video games, the internet and social media.

Unfortunately, there is the risk of exposure to material parents are not aware of and wouldn’t approve of. Being able to recognize and understand how electronics can play a factor in your child’s development is key to their growth.

Limiting exposure to electronics has proven beneficial to children in a number of ways. Some of these benefits include increased creativity, socializing, and better sleep. Limiting exposure can also benefit one’s overall physical health, such as decreasing the risk of obesity and other health conditions related to obesity (diabetes, cardiovascular issues, etc.).

There are several ways to limit the use of electronics. Setting aside a specific time (with a time limit) to use electronics, monitoring your child’s activity, using parental controls and encouraging other activities are just a few. Some alternative activities may include playing a board game, reading a book, playing outside or arts and crafts.

Many of us are guilty of spending too much time with electronics and the internet. Unfortunately, many parents today are so busy, and electronics are a quick form of entertainment for the child. Between working, running the household, and all the daily tasks, parents are spread thin and sometimes need that “20-minute break.”

The negative effects associated with long-term electronic use are prevalent in school-aged children. Some of these effects include sleep deprivation, internet addiction, sensory overload and cyberbullying. As a social worker in an elementary school setting, I often observe these issues.

Parenting in our current electronic-based world is no easy task, but it is imperative to set guidelines for electronic use at an early age. Explain to your child the reason behind the guidelines and find a replacement activity instead. Zone in on your child’s interests and hobbies, giving them choices of how they would like to spend their free time.

According to www.pewresearch.org, parents reported the most common device their young children engage with is a television, with 88 percent of parents saying their young child only uses or interacts with a television.

The following statistics relate to the children and families I serve at the elementary school level:

  • 54 percent of children ages 5-8 use a desktop or laptop, while 73 percent of children ages 9-11 use a desktop or laptop
  • 80 percent of children ages 5-11 use or interact with a tablet
  • 59 percent of children ages 5-8 engage with a smartphone, whereas 67 percent of children ages 9-11 engage with a smartphone

It is no secret that technology is greatly influencing our world, and it is our responsibility to prepare our children. Having the tools, feeling informed and being prepared to help your child navigate our ever-changing technological world can make all the difference in their success.