Ensuring Safe Technology Practices for Your Family

Technology is all around us: iPhones, tablets, and computers. How can you ensure your child is using it safely?

By Anne E. Mead, Ed. D.

Use technology for communication via FaceTime or Skype with grandma or another relative. Read a bedtime story together from afar. Email family and friends so children can know and communicate with extended family.

Model using technology as a tool. Take photos with your smartphone or iPad. Watch a short video of a volcano erupting if your child shows an interest. Use the magnifying app to examine nature. Listen to music on an iPod. Use the online dictionary to spell or find the meaning of words. Technology is an everyday tool.

Children learn by hands-on experiences: touching, feeling, smelling, etc. Before you buy an iPad or other technology for your 3- to 5-year-olds, make sure they already enjoy building with blocks, creating artwork, reading books, engaging in dramatic play, and playing board games. These are the activities through which children really learn. Make real-world experiences the priority. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time for children under 18 months, limited time for 18 months to 2 years old, and for 3-5 years old, up to an hour of educational screen time.

Ensure that you have parental and privacy controls up to date on your device so you can limit the amount of time spent and the sites children can access. Research the sites your child visits. Are there pop-up commercials that might show inappropriate content? Pay attention to G ratings but remember that the raters don’t know your child—you do! If you decide on screen time, preview what they view and watch with your children to help them process what they see. It’s okay to say “no” to screen time.

Consider the value of the apps you choose—are they active and do they promote creativity, innovation, and problem-solving? Use the apps together so you can make good decisions.

Don't let technology get in the way. Family meals are a great time for conversation, catching up on the day, and developing relationships. Car rides are a great time for talking, singing, and playing games like I Spy. Cooking together not only supports relationships but also engages your child in using math and literacy skills; for example, use the calculator feature to figure out how to increase recipes. Consider whether technology is getting in the way of precious family time together and model healthy behaviors for your children around social media.

Be smart; be safe. Pay attention to your privacy settings and don’t let your device become a babysitter for your child. Remember; children learn through hands-on play. Share your rules about posting on social media with your friends and families. Make sure your early childhood program asks for your permission before posting images of your child on Facebook or a website.

Content is taken in part from Laurel Bongiorno, PhD, dean for the Division of Education and Human Studies at Champlain College, in Burlington, Vermont.


Anne E. Mead, Ed. D. is the Director of Family, School, and Community Partnerships for Danbury Public Schools. She can be reached at 203-830-6508 or by email at meadan@danburyu.k12.ct.us.