Virtual kids

What can a parent do in the time when technology and digital media have a gigantic influence on the formation of children's identity and opinion?

Pros and cons

The influence of technology and media on children can be both negative and positive. The role of parents is to make the positive things win over the negative ones – so that children can use them in the best possible way. The positive things are the educational and informative sides, fun and relaxing factor and the fact that digital media keeps us informed and synchronised with the time.

The negative sides can be seen in the fact that technology can cause addiction, hold up the development of social skills, lower the interaction between both children and their friends, and children and their parents. There is less talking, less hanging out in the real world, less physical activity, and also, some content encourages aggressive behaviour and isn't fit for children. There is the danger of cyber bullying too.

The role of the parent

Parents have a key role in preparing the child for technology and everything that comes with it. They have to be able to choose the content according to the child's age and control the time spent in front of the screen. Sometimes parents, tired from their everyday schedule, are even happy that the child is entertained through the screen, because they get to have that time for themselves. It's not good if these moments happen very often, because this can lead to a negative impact.

For example, when your child is watching a longer cartoon, this doesn't mean that he or she is focused. The content and the images on the screen are changing very quickly and this can give you the feeling that the child is focused. In fact, children who watch TV for a longer period of time will probably lack focus during physical activities, because the images during a physical activity don't change and it's difficult for them to follow. The parent needs to asses how long the child should be in front of the screen and precisely plan the rest of the time.

It's equally important that the parent monitors the content offered to children. Children are interested in all kinds of games and cartoons. It is on the parent to choose a cartoon or a game that is not aggressive and offers educational content. Therefore, it is necessary that the parent sees it before the child.

Screen time together

The parent and the child can spend their screen time together in a very constructive way. They can find ideas to apply in their lives and read stories that motivate them to do various activities or games. They can watch things that they cannot see in real lives, such as dinosaurs or wonders of the universe, and find the content that will direct the child to positive behaviours and emotions, such as empathy towards people and animals. The time spent together in front of the screen lowers the risk of addiction and the parent needs to show the child how to make the most of it.

On the other hand, parents should also show their children the way to express ideas and thoughts creatively and show them how good it can be to communicate and hang out with friends. The print media, picture books, regular books or encyclopaedia should not be neglected.

Still, it is inevitable that the child encounters the screen at the earliest age. It's on the parents to make their screen time constructive and useful. In this way they'll have the media awareness that they'll keep in mind even when parents' control turns into their self-control.

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