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Kids & Tech: 12 Tips for Parents in the Digital Age

Social media and other digital platforms play a huge role in the lives of many kids. They serve as virtual meeting places for friends, sources of entertainment or learning tools. But for some, media use can become all-consuming, stressful or even unsafe.

The good news is that researchers have identified some effective ways to help kids navigate the ever-changing digital world. Use these tips to ensure that your child's media use remains a healthy and safe way to connect with others and the world around them.

Tips to help children develop healthy digital habits

  1. Build a family media plan that balances time with and without devices. Work together to set rules about media use so you and your children agree on how devices fit into your lives. Talk about which tech-free activities you want to make time for on a regular basis.

  2. Create screen-free times and places in your home, such as meals and bedtime. Set do-not-disturb on phones when you want undistracted time. For younger children, it helps to have consistent and predictable media routines and time limits. Use built-in timers to make it easier for young children to transition away when time is up.

  3. Have regular discussions as a family about your online activities. Discuss new areas of learning, fun discoveries, as well as difficult experiences–for both parents and children. This fosters open discussion about a sometimes-challenging topic.

  4. Talk about social media. Start regular, open-minded conversations with your children (even the youngest ones!) about their media use, and yours. You don't have to be an expert on each platform to have meaningful discussions! Ask questions like: What do you like about social media platforms? How do you feel when you're on social media? And when I'm on social media? Have you seen anything concerning?

  5. Make sure your kids know they can come to you about their experiences online, even if they feel embarrassed or worried. Let them know you're there to support them through challenges, since we're all learning as we go.

  6. Help children understand what's real and what's edited, how to recognize ads or inappropriate content, and when influencers are being authentic versus outrageous.

  7. Talk about how media and emotions connect. We sometimes crave social media when we're stressed or want to share our joy. At the same time, what we see online shapes how we feel. This is an important insight for both children and parents.

  8. Set a good example. Include your own habits in discussions about social media usage. Be aware of when your attention is on your device and what you may be role modeling. When you must use your device around your family, tell your kids what you're doing and how you're supporting others online.

  9. Optimize your family's online experience. Choose quality content to use together as a family. Also empower your children to decide when content isn't worth their time or attention.

  10. Check settings. When your child or adolescent starts a new social media or video game account, set parental controls and privacy settings at the most secure level. Discuss safety rules for who they can chat with online, how to report problematic posts and whether they can make purchases. Get familiar with how the platform works by reading about it or having your child take you on a tour.

  11. Watch for signs of problematic media use. In adolescents, this could include withdrawing from friendships and hobbies. In younger children, signs include arguing about media constantly and lack of interest in other activities. At all ages, another red flag is if time on social media, devices or video games interferes with physical activity, healthy eating or bedtime.

  12. Think carefully before getting your child a phone. For parents, considering when and whether to get your child their own smartphone is a big decision. There are several factors to consider, including the child's interest in this responsibility and their past media patterns. The AAP has a tool to help guide these conversations, the PhoneReadyQuiz, located here.

More information

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2023)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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