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Tech for Kids: What To Know Before You Buy
Tech for Kids: What To Know Before You Buy
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It’s a special occasion, holiday or celebration and your child wants that new device, smartphone or gaming console. We’ve all been there – should we, shouldn’t we? Is now the right time? Is he the appropriate age? Can she handle the responsibility?

Like so many parents, we find ourselves trying to balance our children’s wants with what feels right for our individual families. And of course there’s always a healthy dose of cultural or social pressure to add to the mix as well. When we find ourselves in this situation, it’s important to step back and evaluate exactly what we’re feeling and why – before we purchase, upgrade or give permission for tech for kids.

This level of mindfulness we bring to parenting the tech (or anything!) can help us make a decision that feels right without regret or resentment. We all want to foster a healthy relationship with technology. Here’s what to consider before you buy.

  1. Need and want are two very different things. Know the difference. And make sure your children do too.
  2. Are you ready to “parent the tech?” Do you have a grasp on what it is, how it works and how your child will use it?
  3. Think about cost beyond the initial purchase. Who is responsible for the data plan, gaming add-ons, apps, books, music? What will the additional purchasing or downloading process look like? Establish a clear plan.
  4. How healthy are the current tech behaviors of your child? Are they doing well with the devices, games, and accounts they have now?
  5. Know your kiddo. What are their tech tendencies – is it hard to peel them away? Or are they pretty easy going about balancing schoolwork, peer interactions, sleep, exercise, and creative play? Let these tendencies help frame the guidelines you set.
  6. If you decide to buy the device, outline what’s important to you. Think about when and where the device can and can’t be used, what apps are off limits and what types of usage is strictly forbidden. Will you allow the child to text, share photos, or have social media accounts?
  7. Have a tech talk! Sit down with your child and share your clear guidelines and expectations about how the device will be used. Make sure you discuss the consequences of not following the guidelines.
  8. Take the slow road. If you’re not quite sure now is the right time, delay it.
  9. Set up non-negotiable “No Phone Zones” or “Device Free Days” to maintain a healthy life balance.
  10. Consider the technology a piece of the health and wellness pie. We can foster a tech positive and healthy life when we parent and purchase with purpose.

Janell Burley Hofmann, author of iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up, is a parent coach who writes about parenting and technology for The Huffington Post; has a weekly spot on “American Public Media Marketplace,” NPR, as tech etiquette consultant; and has been covered by major national media, including Good Morning America. She lives in Sandwich, Massachusetts. For more information please visit http://www.janellburleyhofmann.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

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