How can you guide children in the use of digital media? Our pedagogical staff member Denise knows how difficult this can be sometimes. She shares her experiences and gives tips.
Digital media cannot be ignored nowadays. Just look around you at the canteen of a sports club and you will see many children with a mobile phone or tablet in their hands. It is remarkable that they have taught themselves how the equipment and apps all work. The little ones are already busy 'swiping', making puzzles and the somewhat bigger ones amaze us with vlogs on YouTube. And how about the parents? We can also do something about it. How many of us are not working on their mobile phone while the children are playing? How easy it is to keep a child quiet in a restaurant with a tablet or mobile phone. No child will argue!
You cannot escape digital media, but you can set limits to its use. As a pedagogic staff member and parent of three children, I know how difficult this can be. The biggest challenge is to find a good balance. In addition to digital media, there must also be time to play outside, exercise, read, sleep well enough and talk and laugh with each other.
Media use atKindergarden
At Kindergarden we deliberately make the choice not to offer digital media to children from 0 to 4 years. We assume that they come into contact with it more than enough at home. For a good balance between digital and physical play, we offer activities that appeal to other interests and talents at day care. As far as media use is concerned, the discovery of books and reading is central.
At out after-school care we do offer digital media and the rules of use differ per age category. For example, it is possible from 7 years to use the PCs and laptops without direct supervision. A pedagogical staff member will visit every five minutes to see if everything is going well. This means that the children only use the computers for educational purposes, such as homework, editing videos, editing photos and looking up topics for projects.
We do not want to shield the children from the internet, but rather talk about what they can encounter and talk about if they have seen something interesting. The after-school care children also regularly make fun vlogs for Kindergarden. You can find these on our YouTube channel and Facebook page:
Children know from an early age how the functions and apps of digital devices work. But how do you help them to understand digital media and how can you prevent problems?
Tip: Let your child tell you
Talking about media together is the best way to get a good view of what your child already understands and where you can support your child. Help your child along with media by asking what it sees. This is how young children learn to name and focus on things. They also train their memory. It is especially important that your child tells you what it sees at his of her own pace. By naming emotions in a book or on a screen, it practices empathy at the same time. "How does the princess look?" "Is she happy or angry?" "Why?"
Tip: Reassure your child
Your child may get scared of something that appeared on screen. Especially from four years on, children can suffer from this. Everything is real to them. That is why it makes no sense to say that monsters do not exist. You can better reassure and comfort, for example by giving a stuffed animal or leaving a night light on.
The boss of the screen
From childhood the screen has a big attraction. Pressing buttons and the colours, movements and sounds that young children evoke, stimulate the reward system in their brains. Only not all apps and games that they like are good for their development. In addition, young children learn most in the real world: how things smell, feel and move.
Tip: Teach your child that it can stop by itself
Setting limits on screen time is not only important to keep time for other things. A child also learns that you are the boss of the screen and not the other way around. Children really need your guidance in this. Teach your child that it can stop with media by itself. A kitchen timer or alarm on your phone helps you and your child to keep an eye on the time. Is the alarm going? Time's up!
Tip: Teach your child to reach out to you
It can happen that a child inadvertently ends up in online places that are unsuitable. For example if it plays on the screen at neighbours or with a friend without an internet filter. Does your child encounter something strange? Then teach to put the screen away or turn away and call you or another adult in the area.
Tip: Provide a healthy balance
It is important for development that a child has all kinds of experiences. How does a flower smell? How does sand feel between your toes? How do you look when you are angry? To process all impressions in a day, it is also important that a child gets enough sleep and rest. Limit the amount of screen time and ensure a healthy balance.
Tip: Think of an activity
Watched a movie? Give your child the space to do things at home after that. Like the digital hit of the moment: making slime yourself. Or try to find a book with a theme that interests it and link it to a museum visit. It is about the balance between digital and something physical in the real world.
Tip: Determine clear rules in advance
For example, the rule may be that after 17:00 the iPad or Playstation may be used. And then no more after dinner, in order to have a calm the evening in preparation for going to bed. This will avoid discussions on school days. Other rules may apply at the weekend.
You can also set certain filters to prevent your child from encountering unsuitable things. Think of the child-friendly mode on YouTube or Google. Yet setting these filters can also have a counter-effect: that children will look elsewhere just as soon as they discover that they cannot access everything at home.
Good guidance and education in media use still offers the best result. Feel free to talk to other parents about this and see how you can help each other. For example, Steven Pont recently wrote a nice article in De Volkskrant about computer use for children and how you can be strong in this together. Curious to hear about your tips and stories!
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