It’s common for kids today to have technology at their fingertips. Toddlers play on iPads, tweens tote their first iPhones, teens spend hours holed up on their laptops. And while technology appeals to kids of all ages, it’s ultimately up to parents to decide which gadgets their kids can use.
As kids are becoming technophiles at younger ages, parents must cut through the noise to figure out what technology is appropriate for their kids as they grow up. With the seemingless endless options of devices, apps, and games that kids crave, it’s important for parents to be informed of what exactly they’re giving their kids access to.
Here are some helpful insights to help you discern the right technology for kids of any age.
Since the American Association of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under the age of two, keeping your iPhone out of your grasping baby’s hands is likely the best approach. Instead of keeping your child occupied with gadgets, engage them with one of these baby games that emphasizes physical play and interaction. Most toddlers love anything that emits fun lights and noises, so it’s natural for them to be attracted to tech gadgets. An occasional few minutes of screen time likely won’t be detrimental, but at this age, the more time your child spends interacting with their real-world surroundings, the better.
Preschool & Kindergarten
At this stage, kids have better control of their hand and finger movements, so it’s a great time to start introducing them to technology. While writing with pencil and paper should be the focus, it’s likely that your child is eager to get their hands on your gadgets.
To start, your little learner can practice their typing skills on your tablet, and you could also download a few apps designed for preschoolers that teach key concepts like shapes, math, and reasoning. These apps will supplement the exercises your child is doing in school while also instilling a love of learning in them because, frankly, these apps just seem like fun for kids. Limiting screen time is still important, however, as kids learn early lessons in problem solving and social skills at this age.
By first grade, kids are likely used to using gadgets at home and probably in the classroom. Allowing them to increase their screen time is important for them to continue to learn technology skills that will be important later in school and in life.
Search engines are a great resource for you to vet any app your kid wants to download, andonline app directories sorted by grade level and age can help you make informed choices. If kids are spending a lot of time on the family computer, you may also want to install a kid-friendly internet browser to ensure their safety and ease your mind.
At this age, the right kind of technology can help kids learn skills that will help them succeed in the real world. Tech toys are a great supplement to classroom learning and screen time, but there are so many on the market right now that it’s difficult for parents to know which ones will actually provide value to their kids.
A good place to start is with your kids’ interests. Do they devour books faster than you can check them out of the library? Are they a master math problem solver? Your child’s favorite school subjects and activities can help you decide what kinds of technology would be the best learning tools for them.
If your child is a budding artist, try the 3Doodler 3D Printing Pen. This cool toy will put a tech spin on your child’s doodles! Kids can draw anything they can imagine and have it automatically 3D printed in plastic. If your kid is a natural tinkerer, they might like a Snap Circuits Electronics Discovery Kit. This award winning toy is a great complement to the STEAM curriculum your child experiences at school and provides a hands-on experience in design and engineering. Online tech courses are also a great way to help your child pursue their interests while also learning critical technology skills.
This is also a common time for kids to get their first cell phones, primarily to keep in touch with their parents. This guide to cell phones for kids is a great place to look when your child is ready.
By now, most kids are tech veterans. If your child is ready to move on from the family computer, a starter laptop or tablet would make a great birthday gift.
In middle school, kids need to use the internet for school assignments, and it’s likely that they will want to start using it for their social lives, as well. The age requirement for most social networks is 13, but ultimately you should decide when your child is ready for the responsibility of using social media. It’s also a good idea to put additional checks in place, like becoming Facebook friends with your child or even having access to their password, like 72% of parents reported in a survey by Lab 42.
With all of these changes, it’s also critical to have important conversations with your kids about technology and how it can impact their lives. Cyberbullying, privacy, and online reputation are important topics to cover.
With their own cell phone and laptops in tow, teens’ tech knowledge often surpasses that of their parents, and most of their technology use will be autonomous. It’s important to continue those conversations about appropriate use of social media and how to stay safe online, but teens will be teens. You may be anxious about their seemingly excessive Snapchat use or participation on online forums, but honest, two-way communication is the best line of defense against online risks.
Many teens are always interested in the latest and greatest tech, so giving smart devices as a gift or encouraging them to save up for one is a great option for holidays. An activity tracker that syncs with their smartphone will help them establish healthy habits before they head off to college, or a camera could bring out their artistic side. Drones are also rapidly increasing in popularity with teens and can even stoke an interest in a tech-related career, but make sure to set limitations on how they use it.
In today’s tech-obsessed world, teaching your child computer literacy and technology skills from an early age is important, but parents still need to be cognizant of what tech their kids are using at different stages of their development. Your best judgment coupled with reliable online resources will ensure that you’re making the right tech choices for your kids.