Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Parenting in the Digital Age

Two weeks ago, our school invited Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect, to speak to our community about "protecting childhood and family relationship in the digital age".  As a new mom, I didn't feel like I needed to start worrying about online safety just yet; after all, my son is only 15 months old.  Nevertheless, I was surprised to learn that there are steps I should be taking now that will aid in his development with regard to technology.  To be specific, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between the ages of 0-2 have no screen time, while children from 3-5 have very limited exposure to screens.  That seems easy enough, but screens are so pervasive in our lives that trying to limit exposure to them can become a game of hide and seek with one's cell phone.  And as we work hard to limit our infants' and toddlers' exposure to screens, what are we doing to help older children?  Do we even know how to help them find balance, focus and self-confidence in this digital age?  Perhaps start with this.

Recently, the Huffington Post ran an article entitled, Here's What A Constantly Plugged-In Life Is Doing To Kids' Bodies.  The article details the ways in which media affect children.  But rather than leaving parents feeling hopeless, it offers tangible solutions to each of the problems it mentions.   Moreover, it's embedded with links to research on this topic.  Still, one article is not enough to help our children navigate the tricky waters of screens and social media.  So where to turn?  Consider these options.  First, subscribe to sites like Common Sense Media and Edutopia.  Both offer parents great advice from experts in the fields of technology and education, and each has sections dedicated specifically to parenting and families.  Second, familiarize yourself with the technology your children use.  Chances are they aren't on Twitter and they probably just think of Facebook as something adults like.  But Instagram, yeah, they love Instagram!  Want an inside perspective on this, click here and see what it's doing to kids lives.  Finally, consider modeling the behavior your wish to see in your children.  If you want them to put down their phones, make sure you are doing the same!

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