You are reading a story to your child and suddenly the phone beeps to announce a new WhatsApp message. What do you do? Do you automatically reach for your smartphone or do you read the message later when the child is asleep?
Such situations probably exist in every family. When the little son then reaches for the smartphone, it is said: “That’s not for you yet!”.
Be aware that parents and also other adults have an important role model function for children. Children experience how you, as their closest caregivers, deal with digital media and orient themselves to this. This is how children learn how the world works and how to behave in certain situations. Your behavior therefore has a major impact on how your child uses media themselves. By actively setting an example of what good media use can look like, you help your child learn to use smartphones and the like independently, sensibly and consciously.
Especially for younger children, parents are number one. It is especially important for babies and toddlers to recognize your attention through direct eye contact and to build a good bond. When dad is constantly looking at his smartphone, it’s not possible. Children, even at a young age, notice this. The older children get, the more they emulate you. In toddlerhood, they reach for daddy’s smartphone or speak into a brick that has a similar shape. They realize early on how important this device is for adults or older siblings.
Create a good basis for a reflective approach to media right from the start. Keep the smartphone on silent in your pocket when you play with your child, so that they don’t get the impression that the smartphone is always more important. Later, your child may behave the same way. If it does get pulled out, explain to your child why.
There are certainly moments when the smartphone is needed to take a nice photo of your offspring. Capture beautiful moments with the camera! But think about how often that has to be. After all, your child would rather look you in the eye than constantly at the smartphone in front of your face.
Spending time together with media is also part of family life. Introduce your child to it slowly and choose age-appropriate content. However, such media experiences should always alternate with media-free times.
Through it all, be aware of your role as a role model!