Kids & Technology|April 7th 2022

When is the right time to introduce kids to technology?

Read more about the best time to introduce kids to technology in 2022, including recommended screen time and and device usage by age.

by The Lottie Team
Source: Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

Our recommendation is simple

We’re probably familiar with this sight: a child busily tapping away on a smartphone and navigating the ins and outs of a device unsupervised. Some older children even surprise us with how tech-savvy they already are by showing us features or apps online that we didn’t even know about. These experiences have made us think about questions like how old should a child be to have a tablet or how to properly introduce technology to your kids. We already acknowledge that we live in a tech-driven world, so it’s a matter of creating healthy best practices rather than whether to introduce technology at all. In this article we’ll provide our own simple recommendation that achieves a fine balance between too much and too little tech.

Why it’s important to decide when to introduce your child to a smartphone or tablet

Selecting the best age to introduce your child to technology allows you to set healthy boundaries and expectations early on and prepare your child for the digital world in a constructive way. We prefer this thoughtful introduction to tech rather than keeping your kids from having devices at all, or letting them use devices unsupervised from too early of an age.

Pros and cons of device usage

  • The pros of device usage include greater preparedness for the digital world, tech literacy, increased creativity, and an expanded worldview through well curated content.
  • The cons of device usage include dependence, the potential for attention difficulties, potential sedentary behavior, and the dangers of consuming inappropriate content.

Screen time recommendations

  • In addition to these pros and cons, there are also expert recommendations for screen time from relevant authorities in the US and the EU. We used this information to decide which age works best for kids to start being exposed to technology, then start actively using technology.

Recommended screen time by age

Under 18 months

Avoid screen time other than video calls

18-24 months

Co-viewing of curated content up to one hour per day

2-5 years

Co-viewing and independent viewing of curated content up to one hour per day, but with more flexibility

6-12 years

Reasonable limits based on your particular situation

12 and over

No strict time limits but with practical rules about content types, and screen time usage based on the context

The best age to introduce your child to technology

Now that we’ve recommended screen time limits for each age, we can confidently establish the best age to introduce your child to technology.

2-3 years old

Introduction to devices in general

  • Before 18 months old, children should only be exposed to devices when interacting with family and friends over video call while being supervised. Between 18 and 24 months old, children should only co-view content while supervised. Between the ages of 2 and 3, children should only begin co-viewing content and occasionally viewing carefully curated content on their own.

4-5 years old

Introduction to independent device usage

  • This is the age when children can actually be given technology to manage and view on their own. The first time they feel like they “own” a device like Lottie is offering. They get to pick what to watch and what to do with their device within the boundaries you agreed upon in advance, ask questions and have conversations about the content they watched, and consider the next steps in their relationship with their devices.

How to properly introduce technology to your kids

Have a plan

  • The first step is to create a plan so you can make conscious decisions about technology in your family and household. There’s always room for some improvisation, but you should approach these development stages with a plan, even if it’s a loose one. This plan can include details like screen time limits, content restrictions and recommendations, and action steps for common situations like device dependency and questionable content.

Follow through

  • Implement the steps of your plan with purpose, clearly communicating the importance, purpose, and intended outcomes of these steps to your children. Now that you’ve decided how to properly introduce technology to your kids, you can move on to how to properly maintain a healthy relationship with technology.

Be intentional

  • A device is not a babysitter. Every step of your plan should reinforce the fact that when you use a device, you should use it as an active participant, and not as a passive viewer. Lottie’s own tablets include features to help keep this engagement intentional with built-in cooling off periods and helpful information about all the content for informed viewing at every step.

Be ready to adapt

  • This is an ongoing process and even the best plan will require adaptation over time. Relationships and habits take work over time, so periodic check-ins make a significant difference. Check out our article on how kids are using the internet in 2022 for more information on emerging trends, internet safety tips by age, and conversation starters that will help you stay ready.

Conclusion

The right time to introduce tech to kids is two different ages – 2-3 years old to use devices for the first time at all, then 4-5 years old to really start using devices on their own. The best way to do this is to have a plan that makes sense for the practical realities of your own household, and be forgiving about how this plan plays out.

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