Kids and Electronics – What Age and How Much is Too Much? {4 Moms}

This week The 4 Moms of 35+ Kids are discussing kids and technology. A recent reader question puts it this way: “At what age do you allow your kids to have electronic devices and how much is too much?”

I have long held the belief that the real, live, dynamic, physical world is the best place to interact, observe, and learn. And I don’t know whether you have noticed this or not, but looking down at the palm of your hand and tapping, texting, and scrolling generally prohibits any interaction whatsoever, except for with the device in the palm of your hand.

It always makes me sad to see a family out to eat or at a park on a sunshiny day with everyone looking down at their electronic devices. There is so much to notice and talk about! If you are looking down at a tiny screen, you are missing the whole world going by without you!

We do recognize, though, that technology can be a huge asset, particularly in being able to communicate in an instant. Even though my 17 year old is becoming more independent and spends more time than the other children away from home, I am able to always know where she is and when to expect her home. If she is at work, on an errand, or with friends and needs me for anything, I am only a text away.

But because of the benefits of all the varied forms of technology and the attraction to them, it is easy to lose sight of what a healthy balance is in using electronic devices.

Here are a few guidelines that we have used with our children regarding electronic devices:

  • So far, we have not bought any of our 8 children, the oldest of which is 17, a phone. We did buy her an iPod for Christmas when she was 16, and she bought her own iPhone recently.
  • The children who have been able to save their own money are allowed to buy their own parent-approved devices. The boy bought his own iPad at age 14, 2 girls have bought their own used iPods, and 1 girl bought her own DS (handheld game).
  • No one under 8 has her own electronic device.
  • No “screen time” each day until all chores and school work are complete.
  • No playing on Mommy’s phone while at the park, visiting with friends, or waiting for an appointment.
  • Wii play is only for the “WiikEND”.
  • No electronic devices at mealtimes.
  • No using electronic devices at church.
  • When friends are over, we expect our children to entertain them outdoors if weather allows, and with games and conversation otherwise.
  • Electronic devices can be confiscated if the attitude of the user is suffering.

What about you? At what age do you allow your children to have electronic devices? What are the guidelines you have set for using those?

Be sure to see what the rest of my 4 Moms team has to say about children using technology.

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for posting..this is a huge issue for me right now. Not only is my almost 7 year old an electronics junkie, my husband is a gamer too. It drives me batty one stuck in the office on the XBOX and the other on the DS in the living room. Time to put my foot down I think and try to get out and do more together

  2. I like the Wii for the WiikEND, heehee, I do use the Wii fit for helping to exercise my couch potato daughter. I am not being mean about my daughter she just has a personality that would rather find things to do that includes her behind being glued to a flat surface, with that in mind I search for ways to unglue said behind and the fit program helps:D

  3. I am putting off any electronic devices in the house for as long as I can. My oldest is 7. I’m sure at some point we will have things in the house, but I really just want the kids to get accustomed to entertaining themselves by reading, practicing their music, and playing outside or inside.

    My brother got addicted to Atari at 9 and at age 36 is still an addicted gamer. I feel that I spend too much time on the computer. So I know that these devices have an extremely powerful pull that even I am susceptible to.

    The one device we do have is a small portable dvd player. I let them watch cartoons in their bedroom. The all huddle together on the floor. But I don’t let one kid watch a show on the main tv downstairs while another kid to be watching something else upstairs.

  4. We are a tech savy family. My kids are allowed electronics but it is limited. We only do gaming for the weekend and limited as well. If the weather is nice we are in rainy washington they are outside. My oldest two have their own phones but we paid for them and they do chores to pay for the service. We have speech impaired and an autistic child we use our devices for communication as well. Such as proloquo and baby asl sign language. Electronics are good as long as limits are set. My older boys are 14&11 my speech impaired/autistic are 7’6′&2. The iPad has been a great tool in allowing our children to have a voice.

  5. Ha, I thought I was the only one who came up with a Wii idea like that …we do Wii Wednesday, Wii Wiikend is a cooler name though! We also try to do TV Tuesday and Thursdays only, although I have not been good at keeping that one lately. Our kids do occasionally get to play their dad’s old gameboy and on long car trips, like our trip to Illinois (we live in Idaho), we did buy a DVD player for the ride. I have a question. What do you do when close friends let their children have free reign on gaming devices, television time, ipads, etc. and everytime you go visit that is all their kids want to do with yours?

    • Hi Kimberly, that sounds weird. Are you sure those kids are really “allowed free reign”? I would say that probably they are simply allowed a *very big* amount of screen time, and possibly lacking of other interesting things to do. In my experience, children that truely have “free reign”, as in unlimited screen time, do not act that way at all.

      We do not limit screen time, and the kids use screens quite a lot, but it is definitely not all they do, and most importantly, they have no problem leaving the device and when friends are over they would MUCH rather play games of football or organize treasure hunts than sit at a screen!

      On the other hand, when we visit friends, whose children have restricted acces to screens, those children are the ones who always want to play ds or computer. I think it is because they only have1h/day or whatever, they definitely do NOT want to lose that hour – company or not ;-) Whereas when kids are not restricted they know that they can play or watch their movie whenever they want, so no need to cling to the activity at any given time. This is a radical idea, I know :)

  6. My two are 2 & 5 right now. They only play on the computer for 30min max on the rare ocassions when we visit the public library and have extra time. I did get a used Leapster (the old version) with a few games that my oldest uses once or twice every few months. They also once in a while can play on my phone, usually games/videos through Zoodle.

    I do know that they just added a computer to my older child’s classroom for the first time this year and each teacher also has an ipad that can use with the students. Normally they don’t have computers in primary classrooms (PK3-K) but the State tests they are going to take down the road will all be computerized. They want to make sure all the kids have a solid background in using the computer.

  7. I’ll admit that we do have screens on more during the day than we should..we’re working on weeding some of that out though :P

    We don’t have any cell phones, and we only bring the tablet for long-days appointments..like yesterday, when my son and I had to spend the whole day at the children’s hospital for his day surgery…Otherwise, we try to use books to keep them busy while waiting.

    I do find it sad seeing some moms going to park and only watching their phone. On one day at the park earlier in the summer, a couple of moms came with their kids..and immediately both sat down and spent the WHOLE time texting or whatever. Another mom was sitting near me and texting while her son was playing..finally she looked up and saw him climbing a part of the play structure she thought was too difficult for him and she took him down and re-directed him..I didn’t want to embarrass her or butt in by mentioning that he’d already climbed it 3 or 4 times while she wasn’t looking….

  8. Our nephews have lived with us for the past three years and were very attached to their DS games and TV. We now have a rule of no TV or DS, or any other electronic game, during the week. They can play their DS/Wii and watch TV on Saturday mornings, and sometimes on Sunday afternoon. This has made a world of difference.

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