This month we’re looking into a somewhat controversial topic: digital usage and screen time for children. Whether you love or hate the idea, it’s seemingly here to stay, so we want to explore the best ways to harness technology to your advantage and that of your family.
Topic of the month - Embracing a digital world
We understand. We get it. Screen time is frequently over-used these days and often gets a bad rap. But digital access for children is not pure evil, infact, like most things in life when used proportionately, digital access can be beneficial and educational for your child. But there is a lot of ahem, garbage, on the market and if you’ve caught your child playing around on some questionable apps before, you wouldn’t be the first. So what does it take to make sure children are accessing high-quality, educational content that is worthy of their time? Let’s take a closer look. Balance
Life really is all about balance. With a well-balanced combination of activities in your child’s life, there’s definitely a place for quality screen time. We’re talking about indoor and outdoor time, physical activity mixed with quiet time, social opportunities and imaginative play, books, music and organised activities and plenty of loving family time. If your child has all of this - and more - in their life, adding some digital access is just a part of their journey. Not the journey itself.
Parental guidance We’ll keep this brief as we know you already know this. Parental guidance is key. It’s the task of parents, guardians and carers to ensure children are accessing appropriate material. Responsibility lies with parents, guardians and carers to set guidelines and time limits for children. We don’t need to tell you that endless hours of screen time for young children is not good for them or recommended by professionals. If your child is old enough, discuss appropriate limits with them (if not, set limits on their behalf). This may equate to a set amount of time per day, or a flat no-screen-time rule during weekdays. Then stick to it. Set a timer or alarm if you need reminding. If you put firm boundaries in place and manage your child’s expectations (for example, “you can play this game for thirty minutes and then we’ll be going for a walk to the park”), they’ll be able to cope better when their time is up. See our “help for parents” section towards the end if you need further guidance on achieving this.
Age appropriate access Most developers offer an age-range for the app they’ve created, which is relevant for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you have a four-year-old, you don’t want them accessing an app designed for a ten-year-old. Developers have designed content for a specific audience and families need to ensure this advice is followed.
The second point is something that becomes more relevant as your child grows older. As peer pressure seeps into the equation. It’s not uncommon for younger children to beg to access an app their friends are playing, only to discover the suggested age for the app is considerably older than the child making the request. Usually for good reason too - two fairly well-known examples of this include Among Us and Fortnite, but there’ll be plenty of examples on the market and new ones appearing regularly.
We suggest you make yourself aware of the recommended age when selecting an app and be guided by what the developers suggest. Stand firm with older children on your decision.
Research It’s not so difficult to create an app. Anyone with a little tech know-how can design one, which unfortunately means the market is flooded with options. This can be completely overwhelming when trying to download something appropriate for your child to use and can result in much time wasted scrolling through the Apple App Store or Google Play for Android devices.
What’s really needed, is time invested in researching technology on the market, to separate quality options from the not-so-quality options. Whether this is reading app or web reviews; checking the rating that customers have assigned to the app; going onto local family forums and requesting feedback; or chatting to trusted friends who’ve had experience using the app or web program in question and providing the thumbs up. Use the many resources at your fingertips - especially your community. Others will likely have already walked this path and are probably happy to share their findings.
Research can often be the biggest factor in children accessing undesirable content, because let’s face it, these days we’re a time-poor society. Life is busy, it’s fairly common for both parents to work and even with the best intentions we don’t always have the time to sort the good from the bad. We understand this.So we’ve spent some time researching on your behalf. Below is a list of options we think are worthy of your child’s time. Check them out and choose to use the ones that suit your family best.
Worthy Apps Maths Bugs and Numbers (Little Bit Studio)
Offering a parade of creepy crawlies demonstrating basic time, numbers, fractions and money that will rally your littles!
Peg + cat’s tree proble?m (PBS Kids) Based on the very sweet children’s series PEG + CAT, this app reflects the show’s tone. Children learn to problem solve by helping Cat. Looking at such things as logic puzzles, and early math skills. Worth noting there are no ads or in-app purchases! Age - 2+
Literacy Pocket Phonics - Focusing on the sounds letters make, writing letters and blending letters to make words, pocket phonics is interactive, encouraging your child to practice writing the letter with their finger. Worth noting - Pocket Phonic Lite is FREE! Introducing the first six sounds beforing requiring you to upgrade to the paid version, but an excellent way to test whether your child is interested before you invest. Age - 4+
Meet the Alphablocks Great characters and fun music appealing to early learners. Enjoyable, educational, learning.
Age - 4+
IOS Android (called “Alphablocks: letter fun” on Android)
Music Simply Piano (Joy Tunes) We actually know young children who used this app during the COVID isolation period and were playing basic piano - with two hands - by the time they returned to school! A wonderful, creative way to gage your child’s interest in learning music, long before the days of joining a school band! There’s even the choice between using a keyboard or piano at home, or the onscreen version. Age - 4+ IOS Android
Toca Band (Toca Boca) Incredibly cool! Let your child select their characters - each of which provide a different sound, rhythm or harmony - add them to the virtual stage and jam with the band! Age - 4+
There are so many options by developer Toca Boca that encourage creativity, and most are just downright fun! From hair salons to feeding your pet monster, or designing your own city (we already mentioned Toca Band in our music suggestions), there is a huge amount of choice to cater for every child - especially in the preschool age bracket. Search through to find the scenario that best suits your child.
Now used in over 14,000 schools which is testament to the quality of this program which bridges the gap between early learners, right through to high school. Making maths productive and fun, there’s a curriculum designed especially for home use.
The below information is taken from the Sydney Children’s Hospital’s Network. They have a great fact sheet available to help guide families as we try to navigate this ever-changing digital era, but here are a few relevant points -
The future is digital Whether you love or hate digital usage, the simple fact is that the future is tech. Almost all areas of life are affected by digital elements now, and those that aren’t are headed in that direction. We need to find the best balance for our families and our children to ensure they are well versed in this language to comfortably stroll through this digital future. It’s all about the balance. This is the way to embrace a digital world.
0-12 month development
How to buy everything you need for mum and bub online - and stay on budget: Author: Naomi White
The latest COVID-19 lockdown has left some new moms in a sticky situation, throwing out many expectant parents’ plans to test drive prams or go find the cutest pyjamas for their baby.
Unfortunately, we all have to stay home and that rules out visiting a store. This means that expecting parents will have to resort to shopping online. But how do first-time parents find the right products for their baby when shopping online?
With no store clerk to help them with their choices, this can be a difficult task. Luckily, Essential Baby has created a list of recommended products.
As a general rule, parenting is a balancing act. While some parents are too strict, others can be too lenient. The trick is finding the sweet spot between extremes. This is also true when it comes to how much attention we give our children.
While some parents will not see too much attention as an issue, it can in fact be as harmful as a lack of attention. Giving your children too much attention has the potential of negatively affecting your child’s development, your quality of life and even your relationship with your partner.
Consistently giving into your childrens’ demands is a sure sign that your child is receiving too much attention. On the other hand, constantly interrupting adult conversations is a sign that a child is receiving too much attention.
Things to Consider When Posting About Your Kids Online
Author: Stacy Steinberg
Today’s children are one of the first generations to have their whole lives recorded online. From ??achievements to medical concerns and silly antics, parents want to share their little ones’ lives. And why wouldn’t they want to share these special moments?
However, other parents are starting to question whether these images and videos are theirs to share. When does sharing your childrens’ lives online become a violation of their privacy?
Ultimately, you are always going to post about your children. Just make sure you guard your children’s privacy, give them veto power over your posts, and only post content you would like posted about yourself.
Continue tothe complete article to learn more about posting content that features your children online.
3-4 year development
Coronavirus Quarantine Survival Skills For Parents & Kids
Author: Robert Myers, PhD
Social distancing, lockdown, masks, hand sanitiser and Zoom calls. Over the past year and a half, these have terms have crept into all of our lives. Nobody is happy about it, but this is the reality we are faced with.
Our new post-COVID lives have taken more than a bit of getting used to, with many of us struggling to keep it together. Even our children have grown sick of digital devices, which have crept into every aspect of their lives, from entertainment to learning. And worst of all, we don’t know when this ordeal will end.
In order to deal with quarantine, it is suggested that parents creatively adapt their children’s play spaces, refrain from trying to fix all of their children’s issues, and create structured daily schedules.
Read on to better understand how to cope with quarantine.
4-5 year development
Creative Ways to Help a Child Calm Down
Author: Abby Watts
Children are still learning to control their emotions and can struggle to stop themselves from spiralling into a state of panic or anxiety. Something as trivial as forgetting to bring a pencil case to school can sometimes result in a complete meltdown and hours of crying.
Fortunately, there are a variety of calming techniques that you can teach your children. These will empower them to take control of their own emotions
While many calming techniques involve breathing, it can be difficult for children to remain focused on their breath, especially when they are feeling anxious. The breathing eights technique involves tracing the ‘8’ shape will one’s finger while breathing deeply. The tracing helps children eliminate distractions and remain focused on their breathing.
Make a hallway laser maze to help your children stay active and stimulated during quarantine. This is the perfect lockdown activity. It is easy, inexpensive and fun. Simply stick streamers to your hallway walls in a zigzag pattern before challenging your children to make their way through the maze.
Teach your children how to make use of the beauty of light with this simple craft. Simply print the template and decorate your lantern before glueing it all together. Make sure to only use flameless, battery-operated candle/tea lights. And explain to your children why an alternative light source would be a problem.
Take the day to help your children make dolls that reflect how they are feeling. This therapeutic activity will help you understand how your children are coping with quarantine. Furthermore, it will teach them to recognise and acknowledge their emotions.
Read on to learn exactly how these dolls are made.
Make a wonderful origami bracelet using thick paper or a thin card. Start by folding the paper as per the instructions. Then start inserting and connecting the units before bringing the two ends together. In the end, your child will be left with a beautiful craft he/she can wear or gift to a friend.