Make Tech Time Count

By Nora Heston Tarte

The mom guilt is real.

Letting kids watch television or play games on tablets is taboo in some circles.
So when moms give in to electronics, guilt can overwhelm us. The good news is not all tech time will rot your child’s brain. Kids can learn from educational apps or watching Sesame Street, as long as it’s part of a well-balanced home life.

Strike a Balance
“Screen time should not get in the way of reading books, playing outside, practicing sports or musical instruments, or family conversation time,” says Karin Compise, a teacher at John McCandless STEM Charter School in Stockton and mom of two.

The key is to use tech time in addition to other meaningful activities. A little TV here and there lets kids recoup and relax. Engaging in interactive media presents learning opportunities and introduces children to technology they will be expected to navigate in the future.

It is, however, as much about what kids are watching as how much they are watching. Educational apps, technology for research, FaceTime with family and friends—these all have positives for kids. Karin calls the rest “fluff.”

Toddler Tech
For the youngest kids, the AAP recommends family media use. Engage in media together. Sit side by side to play games or cuddle up for family movie night. This way technology becomes a bonding experience instead of an isolating one.

Make Rules
In Karin’s house, the rules are simple: no phones or tablets at the dinner table; all homework, piano practice, reading, chores, and other responsibilities must be completed before using phones, tablets, and computers; and video games are only for the weekend. In her home, mature video games and gun violence have no place.

Her children also have their own sets of rules, tailored to fit their personalities and personal tech habits.

Those who are likely to become addicted to screens or who are bucking physical activity and social interaction for screen time are good examples of kids who need more limits. Others will fair fine with less intervention. It’s a parent’s call, but as adults, they will need to be prepared to manage their own tech time.

Professionals Weigh In
In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics dumped its “no tech before two” suggestion for a new approach, providing parents a list of age-appropriate recommendations and encouraging family media use. Check out for more.