Raising children is never a simple task; as they say, it takes a village! But, in today's age of technology, there are a whole new set of challenges that didn't necessarily apply to our parents or their parents before them.
This can be especially true if you use virtual assistants at home, such as Siri or Alexa. After all, you are essentially raising your kids in an environment where they can command someone to do pretty much anything for them.
Not only that, but young children can start to view these virtual friends as authority figures or extra parents. And often, their "virtual parents" know a lot more about everything than their actual parents, which can lead to some pretty hilarious conversations.
Parenting blogger Molly DeFrank helps frustrated parents to navigate their way around technology at home. She has lots of valuable information on ensuring kids are not getting too much screen or internet time and how to balance their use of technology in a healthy way.
Molly says it's essential for parents to set firm boundaries around technology use. It is also crucial to quickly identify any warning signs that may arise when kids begin spending too much time in front of a screen.
"When parents see amped-up sibling spats, if screen time ends and your child falls apart, if your child complains of boredom when screens aren't an option: these are all good indicators that your kids might be ready for a screen break," Molly said. "The bad news is that kids are spending seven hours per day on digital entertainment - this is not good for our kids."
It's not all bad news, though. Parents still get to call the shots, so technology overuse can certainly be rectified.
"We get to decide how much and what kind of tech to allow in our homes," Molly said. "If the screen time status quo isn't working in your house, confidently make a change."
Molly says she has firm rules in place for her own children. "During the week, we only use digital entertainment after dinner, and we use it together," she said.
"We'll watch a family show or movie, but not every night. Other nights we play board games, card games, or baseball or football outside."
"We have six kids, ages 12 and under," Molly said. "None of our kids have phones."
Molly acknowledges that her rules may not work for everyone, but she says they have improved her family's home life. "Certainly, this plan isn't ideal for every family, but eliminating daily video gaming/tablets has transformed the culture of our home in the best way."
There's no denying that technology has a place in our lives, and it's essential for children to learn how to use it. It can have a positive effect, but it can also have a very negative impact on kids.
"Our family loves technology, but too much of it was bringing out the worst in our kids," Molly said. "Putting tech in its proper place in your home will require a little trial and error."
"But allowing kids to develop skills and habits outside of the digital world will repay dividends for their mental, emotional and social wellbeing," Molly explained. "Interesting that many tech giants are some of the most screen-restrictive parents!"
So, what is the best way to regulate screen time? Molly says the easiest way is to "relegate it to specific days and windows of time."
"In our house, we don't isolate and consume digital entertainment," she said. "If the kids only get a half-hour or an hour of video games per week, and it's always on Sundays, they won't even ask for it on the other days."
If the kids already know the answer will be "no," chances are they won't waste their time asking. "It's not even an option," Molly said.
"Good parents can have different screen time plans that suit their unique family," Molly said. "But whatever that plan is, create firm boundaries."
"In the long-term, you'll find that your kids turn their boredom into opportunity. We also need to ditch the idea that our job is to entertain our kids."
"We are not cruise ship directors; we are parents. Guide, help, love, nurture, cultivate, equip. Mentor? Yes. Entertain? No," Molly said.
Molly suggests trying a "tech fast" to get kids motivated to engage in other activities. "Invite them to sit with you and create a list of fun activities to try during the fast," she said.
"Go for a walk, ride bikes, play a board game, write a letter, write a story, do a puzzle. Roll up your sleeves to get them started, then watch where they gravitate when they have free time."
"Feed those interests. Budding artist? Grab some new colored pencils and a fresh sketch pad. Potential bookworm? Head to the library. Building enthusiast? Grab some Lego."
Molly says encouraging a child's personal interests is very important. "Feed their interests and talents, and watch your amazing kids blossom!" she said.
Samantha, the creator of the Walking Outside in Slippers blog, says that virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa shouldn't cause too many issues for kids. "We have them in nearly every room of the house, including the bedrooms," she said of her family.
"We regularly use them to tell us the weather for the coming day and to play our favorite songs," Samantha said. "My son asks questions about who would win Pokemon battles, and we have fun asking the system to tell jokes."
And they can be helpful with homework! "If we have a science question or need a word pronounced correctly, we turn to the Google assistants too," Samantha said.
"We, like many families, are guilty of using our phones and other devices too much," Samantha said. "But I don't feel like AI assistants pose as much of a problem because they don't have screens we stare at like phones."
"I know some people worry AI assistants can listen in on conversations, but I don't think about that much. The convenience outweighs the risks for me."
So, what's your take on technology for kids? Do you think it's necessary to place strict boundaries on tech use, or do you think technology use (and overuse) is no big deal?
It's true, technology is indeed extremely valuable to a child's education, and it's essential for them to learn in today's tech-savvy era. However, it's also crucial for kids to learn about real life and how to communicate with real people in real situations.
It has been found that less screen time in the toddler years corresponds to lower rates of ADHD by the age of 7. Hands-on play and learning to read books are as important - if not more so - as learning to use technology.
It's something that each parent needs to determine for themselves and their children, but it's an inescapable problem in today's society. Technology is here to stay - and so are Siri and Alexa!