This post is part of a series of excerpts from Dr. G's new book on parenting: Get the Behavior You Want... Without Being the Parent You Hate!, which is available for pre-order now.

Do you feel like apps and phones and games and videos make it easier or harder to be an effective parent?

Technology is here to stay. I for one am pretty thrilled with technology. As parents, though, we often have worries about tech and screens. Are they poisoning our kids? Are we relying on them too much? Are we changing the fabric of our culture by plugging in preschoolers and letting tweens live online?

I get a lot of comfort from the fact that our parents had these same worries about TV. Their parents voiced these same concerns about rock ’n’ roll. And their parents worried about kids who sat by the radio to listen to the trashy variety shows in the evenings. We all look at the new developments entering kids’ lives and wonder “What are we doing?!”

If you accept that media and technology will be a part of your child’s life, then use it as a tool that helps you teach the lessons and get the behavior you want! The way we approach watching, playing on, and using screens can teach our kids responsible behavior both online and off.

Toddlers.

  • Use technology the way you use books—a little time alone with one is fine, but just as kids might begin to tear or chew on a book, they are likely to use devices in destructive ways if they get too much time by themselves. Sit together and watch a show or play a game. This reinforces your child’s learning, strengthens your family bonds, and lessens any guilt you have about plugging in.

Preschoolers and Ages 5-7

  • Screen nutrition: Ask your child to start to rate media himself. On a scale of broccoli to ice cream sundae, how “nutritious” is what he wants to do?

Ages 8 – 10.

  • Privacy takes responsibility. We have to talk to our kids about the genuine dangers of sharing too much information online. Give kids enough information so that they will take this seriously; that doesn’t mean you need to tell them everything. Then give them clear guidelines about when to check with a grown-up:
    • Before sharing their age, birthday, last name, address, or school.
    • Before joining a website that requires e-mail or other personal info.
    • When creating an avatar or account on any site.
    • When chatting in any online community or with anyone they don’t know in person.
    • Before changing a password—every password has to be written down where a parent can find it.

Ages 11 – 12.

  • Give devices a bedtime. Your child doesn’t have a cell phone, you have a cell phone (or tablet or MP3 player) that you let that child use, even if the device was a gift from someone else. So devices have to “go to bed” a half hour before your child does—on the charger in your bedroom.

Technology is about tools, specifically the tools our kids want. Using that technology as a tool that will build our child’s character gives us peace of mind and puts our child on the path to being an adult we will really enjoy and admire.

Deborah Gilboa, MD, aka “Doctor G” is an industry leading parenting expert, Family Physician, international speaker, author, and media expert. She developed the “3 R’s of Parenting” to empower parents to raise respectful, responsible, and resilient kids.
Doctor G is a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a frequent guest expert on CBS, ABC, and WQED. She contributes to Huffington Post Parents, Your Teen magazine, Parents magazine and MSNBC.com. Recognitions include Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 Under 40”, the Bristol Meyers Squibb Award for Clinical Excellence, and The Excellence in Teaching Award.
Beyond these honors, she’s most proud of her family. She and her husband are raising four boys who are growing into respectful, responsible and resilient young men.
For more info, go to Ask Doctor G.