Almost every specialist acknowledges that the least exposure and use of digital devices by kids under 5 is key to a healthy early development. However, once our kids fall within the 5 to 12 age range, their daily activities lead them into digital interaction. This is how the concept, and use, of a training device came into being. I’ll share with you here how to use it, and the skills you’ll be developing as you use it.
The training device is a shared device, it is not for personal use. This allows for activities to be monitored, while specific skills are being developed. We slowly allow interaction and use, while sharing the value and utility of digital devices.
You do not have to set aside a device to be used under these terms. However, we do recommend you do so if you use your tablet or cell phone for work or if you handle confidencial information. All of this is just for the sake of avoiding conflict and problems derived from mistakes or misuse. Those of us who work off our phones know that losing them or destroying them would bring critical consequences that any child should not have to deal with; not yet.
So… What are the 3 basic reasons to use the training device?
We want to develop Digital Intelligence (DQ) skills in our children. And for that reason, we’ll start developing 3 areas of skills:
Screen time (Digital Exposure Time)
Our goal is to get our children to use and STOP using the device as agreed. If we agree to 30 minutes of use, by the end of that time, the device should be turned off and ready to put it away. The ideal is that children 5 to 8 may use it for no more than an hour a day. Children over 8 may gradually increase exposure leading to up to 3 hours per day. The times can be agreed by both parts, depending on specific uses and activities.
Content evaluation and digital experience
The training devices allow gradual (and supervised) exposure to contents within digital platforms such as YouTube and websites. The contents should always be discussed after the experience. Some of the elements that we may adress in this conversations are:
a) Why do you like that show/channel/website?
b) If there are funny contents or things that they find amusing, we should ask… Why do you think that is funny/entertaining? What do you think about what you’re watching?
c) If there are sensitive subjects, pop-ups, or site redirection or any other risky elements… You need to explain what to do and prepare them to report or avoid whatever is needed. Saying things like: “Remember you should not click on things like this, because this happens.” “What would you do if they ask you for this information?” “What would you do if the computer crashed or something stopped working?”
3. Device utility
The use of the training device allows us to also check the skills and ability of our kids in the use of devices for useful purposes.
a) Learning to use navigation tools (GPS based) to get from one place to the other. They can even start interacting with platforms such as Waze where they can learn to report incidents for other users. This allows for them to understand their role as digital citizens and content curators, while working under daily supervision and routines.
b) Carrying the device (usually cell phones) for specific activities where mom and dad are not present. Weekend sleepovers, afternoon outings, etc.
c) Using the device to do research. Finding useful information during a conversation where they can contribute with what they find online. Finding names of actors, historic facts, or news events. The key to this is to always keep the conversation open about what they find, how they validate the information, and discussing any other things they might find along way.
d) Taking pictures, recording videos, or recording contents under instruction and supervision of parents. Always set boundaries and directions as to why they’re taking the picture or recording the video. The importance of documenting and recording, but also the relevance of consent, rules, and proper settings; this will make a bug the difference between abuse and use of devices.
e) Communication with friends and family who may live far away, under supervision, and with authorization of parents.
The use of training devices allows us to assess the skills and thought process that our kids may develop, before having them face tough situations on their own. It is very important that we always see devices, apps, and social media as tools to achieve something, developing relationships and identity. The training device, also helps guide and limit the use of devices. Since the device is not a tool of personal use, children may understand that their activities are monitored and seen; and that they have positive or negative impact on others through their digital actions and activities. All of these, without having the pressure or responsibility of taking care of the device and the accounts involved in the use of apps, stores, and services. It is also desirable that whatever device children may use, if different from mom’s or dad’s, should be a used device. On the one hand to reduce risks, but also to make them appreciate the use and functions of the device beyond seeing it as a piece of “status”.
Share this with other parents, and if you need further guidance for the use of training devices, just send us an email to set up a training session: firstname.lastname@example.org