The 21st Century parent: How to handle technology

KENMORE, N.Y. (WIVB) – 21st Century parents have decisions to make that their parents never did. Moms and dads in the 1980’s may have worried about their children watching too much television, but iPads and cell phones didn’t enter into the equation. That, of course, has all changed.

John Eberl has an 8-year-old daughter named Grace who loves to play the game “Angry Birds” on his iPhone. She has a higher score than he does, but he limits how much she can use it.

John said, “When I was a child, we would get out of school at 2:30 and around six o’clock, I would come in with a red nose and red cheeks when it was time for dinner”. He notices there aren’t as many kids playing outside in the wintertime, and he wants his children to experience what he did growing up.

He has introduced a few different handheld game systems to his children, mostly the developmental level systems with alphabets, reading, and math. But he is pleased that Grace also loves to read books and play board games, especially Monopoly Jr.

They have introduced these devices gradually, because they know the children will have to learn to use them eventually, and they want Grace and her brother to be responsible with them.

As far as when Grace might get her own cell phone, she would love to have one by the fifth grade, but John and his wife are thinking high school might be the more appropriate time.

News 4 talked to University at Buffalo Professor Mary McVee, with the Graduate School of education, about how to deal with introducing technology to children.

According to the National Consumers League, the prevalence of cell phones among teenagers and preteens has nearly doubled in the last two years, and the average age has gotten even younger.

McVee says every family should decide what types of values they put on media and come up with a “family media plan”. She says it’s much easier to bring new technologies into our homes than it is to monitor them and set the boundaries and the limits.

“Think ahead, what do you want your family policies to be? That includes cell phone use, as well as other digital devices”, said McVee.

She thinks parents should pay close attention to where their kids are engaging and what types of sites they’re engaging in. 25% of kids say their cell phones are their primary means of getting on the internet, and so McVee recommends putting off giving your child a cell phone as long as possible.

A low-tech phone, including a pre-paid phone, is a great way to monitor and limit what your child can access, if you’d like them to have a phone for emergencies but don’t want them to have so much access to the internet.

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