9 AAP Technology Guidelines for Parents

Discover how the AAP’s recommendations can be implemented at home

Young girl on an iPad
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The realities of today’s digital world are changing the face of parenting. In fact, technology is so integrated into our daily lives, it has become nearly impossible to restrict children from using the vast array of tools available to them.

For instance, kids access computers and tablets at school and often use the Internet to do homework. What’s more, they have e-mail accounts for school, access Google docs to complete projects and have Smartphones to keep in touch with working parents.

Additionally, more than 30% of children in the U.S. play with a mobile device before the age of two, according to Common Sense Media. So how does a parent adapt to the changing demands of parenting?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents are encouraged to be flexible but to still parent their kids. In other words, they are encouraged to allow screen time in moderation, but the AAP is not making a strict recommendation about the number of hours kids should be allowed to use digital devices.

Here’s an overview of AAP’s recommendations and how implementing these parenting guidelines now can reduce the likelihood of cyberbullying down the road.

Guideline #1: Your job as a parent has not changed. Even though your kids are growing up in a digital world, the same parenting principles apply. You still need to be involved. Play with your kids and set limits. This includes setting limits for their virtual worlds as well.

Teach them how to be kind and instill empathy. And know who their friends are and what they are doing when they are together.

Guideline #2: How you interact with social media is important. Remember, your kids are watching you. So you should behave on social media the way you expect your kids to behave.

This includes refraining from making mean or sarcastic posts as well as limiting your time online. And remember attentive parenting requires face time away from the screen. So set limits for yourself and spend some face time with your kids playing games, exercising or simply talking about their day.

Guideline #3: Technology is not something to be feared. Too many parents let their fear of technology dictate how they parent their kids. As a result, they end up restricting their child’s access to technology rather than learning how it can be used to enhance learning or development. It is better for your children to learn how to use technology effectively now while they still are willing to learn from you than it is to introduce it later in life. However, this does not mean allowing an 8-year-old to have an Instagram account. What it means, is teaching your kids age-appropriate lessons about technology.

Guideline #4: Content is important. When your child is using technology, be sure that he is engaging with quality content rather than just worrying about the time he spends.

For instance, it is much more productive for your child to spend an hour on Khan Academy than it is to spend an hour watching pranking videos on YouTube. What’s more, knowing what your kids are doing online helps you direct them when they are heading in the wrong direction.             

Guideline #5: Use technology together. When families spend time together using technology, this improves social interactions and facilitates learning. So be sure you play a video game with your kids or help them with a project online. Even if you are not as skilled with the technology as your kids, your perspective still matters and is invaluable to your kids.

Guideline #6: Playing is still important. For very young children, it is crucial that you offer unstructured playtime throughout the day. Remember, playtime stimulates creativity. It also creates a healthy balance between technology and every day life.

Guideline #7: Allow your teen to be online. For teens today, online friendships are a central part of their development and should be allowed with proper limits and guidance. What’s more, research has shown that social media can support identity formation. Because technology is never going away, it is important that you teach your teen how to interact appropriately with the online world. Meanwhile, ask your teen to show you what they are doing online and point out anything that needs to be addressed. Talk to you teen about their online reputation and the dangers of oversharing.

Guideline #8: Create technology-free zones. Just because technology is big part of every day life, does not mean that it has to consume your life. One way to do this is to preserve things like family mealtime. In other words, do not allow your kids to use technology at the dinner table. Another idea is to recharge devices overnight outside your child’s bedroom. These actions encourage family time and healthier sleep.

Guideline #9: Your kids will mess up. Every kid will make a mistake at one time or another while using technology. Instead of freaking out, use these mistakes as teachable moments. On the other hand if your child is sexting, engaging in sexual bullying or cyberbullying others, you need to address these issues with firm consequences.  

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