kids and electronic use
kids and electronic use

Getting Your Child Electronics This Holiday Season? Here’s What To Know Before You Buy

Posted on December 1, 2022 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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This time of year is often associated with finding that perfect gift for everyone in your family. For parents, you might be considering buying your child the latest and greatest toy or game. Or maybe, you are trying to determine if the newest electronic is the gift to give this year.

Whether your child already has digital devices or not, Kelly Melistas, a child and adolescent psychologist for Henry Ford Health, offers some advice that you should consider before purchasing a gaming system or cell phone for your child.

When Are Kids Ready For Digital Devices?

“There isn’t a set age that we recommend you begin introducing devices to your child,” says Melistas. “Electronics are part of our daily lives, but when it comes to your kids, consider where they are at developmentally first before purchasing.”

Take these steps into consideration before gifting electronics this holiday season:

  1. Make a pros and cons list. Write down a few reasons supporting and against purchasing a digital device for your child. This can help you determine if they are ready for electronics or not. For example, kids are very tech savvy and many games or shows they might have access to can be educational. At the same time, consider if your child really has a need for a digital device or not. As a parent, if you are using electronics as a digital pacifier for your child, you might be purchasing for the wrong reasons.
  2. Set parental controls. Make sure you are aware of what your child has access to with their device. Fortunately, most electronics allow you to block sites or games that could be inappropriate for your child. Parents might also look into setting up restrictions on purchases that can be made from these devices as well as time limit restrictions.
  3. Draw up a contract. After you have outlined the rules for device use, consider having your children sign a contract stating that they understand that they need to follow these rules in order to earn the right to use that electronic. Having the rules written down can help eliminate disputes over device use in the future.
  4. Talk about online safety. Your child may want the next big thing in electronics, but there are a lot of dangers that they can be exposed to when it comes to digital device use. Make sure to educate your child about inappropriate behaviors online and cyberbullying as well as catfishing and human trafficking dangers. When they see something that is concerning or goes against the rules that you have outlined, make sure your child feels comfortable sharing that with you.

Electronic Use For Younger Kids

For younger and elementary-aged kids, make sure to set up good boundaries with digital devices early on. Be very clear on how much time your child is allowed to use that device and for what purposes. When they are using that electronic, set a physical timer so that they understand that when time is up, it is up.

“At the same time, I don’t recommend parents take away devices from a child as a punishment,” says Melistas. “When this happens, that child starts to negatively rely on that device and will not be so willing to give it up, even when good boundaries and time limits are in place.”

Additionally, parents should set a good example for their kids. When your child sees you on your phone throughout the day, they learn to be more dependent on electronics. Instead, try to limit your own device use. When you are playing with your children, talking to others or watching a family movie, put your phone away so you are more in the moment.

Electronic Use For Older Kids

“For your teens and high school-aged kids, it is normal for them to rely more on digital devices,” says Melistas. “Having their own cell phone can make it easier for them to connect with friends, communicate with parents when away from home and even look up information or study materials for school.” That doesn’t mean that no boundaries should be in place, though.

Device use can impact sleep at this age – both falling asleep and staying asleep. Since teens often need more sleep to support development, make sure digital devices stay out of their bed. Consider these options for creating boundaries with electronics at night:

  • Shut down electronics at least an hour before bed.
  • Set up a family docking station where everyone (even adults) can plug in their phones at night.
  • Instead of a docking station, plug electronics in on the opposite side of the bedroom from where you sleep.
  • Use alarm clocks so you and your children aren’t relying on cell phone alarms to wake up in the morning. This also helps keep devices out of reach if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night and reach over to see what time it is. It could be tempting to start scrolling again!

To find a pediatrician or behavioral health therapist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Kelly Melistas is a child and adolescent psychologist who sees patients through Henry Ford Health’s Pediatric Behavioral Health Integrated Care program.

Categories : ParentWell
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