Friday, November 21st, 2014
As the CEO and founder of Zuckerberg Media, editor-in-chief of the digital lifestyle destination Dot Complicated, bestselling author and SiriusXM radio show host, and the sister of a certain hoodie-clad entrepreneur, it’s hard to say if there’s a mom out there who’s more social media–savvy than Randi Zuckerberg. We caught up Randi to talk tech/life balance, oversharing on social media, and her favorite job of all.
Parents: Your children’s book, Dot, promotes the message that tech devices are great, but so is embracing your surroundings in real life. Do you let Asher, your 3-year-old, use any devices? What are some of your favorites for young children?
Randi Zuckerberg: I’m definitely of the mindset that when you’re talking about young children, the tech/life balance should skew WAY in favor of the life component—going outdoors, getting dirty, experimenting with different materials, etc. That being said, there’s definitely a time and a place for tech—it’s very important that children develop a sense of tech literacy, along with the other skills they are developing, so that they’re armed with the tools they’ll need to be successful later in life and so that they’re on par with their peer group. Tech can also be wonderful to promote creativity, with apps that foster a love of art, music, reading, and more.
In our house, digital minutes are special and they need to be earned. They can be earned by doing chores (in the case of our 3-year-old son, “chores” involve things like putting his shoes on by himself and remembering to say “please”) or given during special occasions, such as airplane travel. For older children, I recommend giving a set amount of minutes each week, and giving your child control of how they want to allocate it—almost like a bank. I find that MomsWithApps and CommonSenseMedia provide excellent suggestions around apps and devices that are right for each child and family—enabling you to search for apps catering to different sensory levels, apps you can use without wifi, and more.
Parents: What are the pros and cons of letting children so young use tech devices?
RZ: I think the pros of introducing children to technology early far outweigh the cons. That being said, there’s a difference between mindlessly sticking a child in front of a tablet as a babysitter, and mindfully choosing apps that engage their minds and creativity. I will never fault any parent who just needs a few minutes of peace and quiet and puts a video on for their child to watch (I live in the real world, after all!) but in an ideal world, screen time is a time when children are actively engaged, rather than just passively sitting and watching.
For older children, one of the biggest risks I see are around sites that allow people to be anonymous. While I understand that teenagers like to have spaces to go online away from their parents and prying eyes, those sites also run an increased risk of bullying, when people feel like they can say hurtful things without consequences. Before your children use sites like that, it’s a good idea to sit down and talk to them, to make sure they are ready to handle it.
Parents: What’s a good rule of thumb for when parents should know their kid is ready to use a tablet or smartphone?
RZ: These days, it’s common to go out to a restaurant and see a 1-year-old baby playing on her parent’s device. I remember when my son was 6 months old, he picked up one of his toys and started pretend text messaging on it, because he saw my husband and I doing that so much. Yikes! For very young children, I recommend one of the special early childhood tablets, such as the LeapFrog device—if you hand your phone to a child under 2 years old, you should just automatically assume it will become a chew toy, or you’ll be bringing it in for cracked screen repairs after it hits the floor. Once your child has the motor control and the attention span to hold the phone and concentrate, he or she is ready to engage with a tablet or smartphone—but that age varies for every family.
Parents: Is it easier or harder to parent in the age of social media? It certainly makes it much easier to judge another parent’s choice—or be judged for yours! What’s your opinion on that?
RZ: Parenting in the age of social media means that every single person you’ve ever known is now an armchair parent, judging you and commenting on everything. In some ways, it’s made parenting a lot easier, because you now have a constant support system at your beck and call, 24/7. I’ve had some pretty rough nights of children being sick, not sleeping, etc—where I’ve found great relief in my online network. That being said, it’s also way too easy to be judgmental. Parents, it’s hard enough raising children as it is! Let’s please try to stop judging each other. You never know what’s really going on behind the scenes of that perfect, glossy, happy-looking Facebook photo…
Parents: What advice would you give to moms if they’re considering sharing a photo or story about their child online?
RZ: Most of the time, sharing about your children or family online is absolutely harmless—it can be a great way to get support from friends, keep connected to loved ones who live far away, and contribute to a virtual “time capsule” that you’ll have to look back on years from now. On the other hand, more and more information is available about all of us at just a Google search away…make sure that if you’re contributing to your child’s digital footprint, you’re not posting something that could potentially embarrass or harm them years from now when they are applying to schools or jobs. If you find yourself thinking, “should I post this or not,” the answer is probably “not.”
Parents: It recently came out that Steve Jobs was a “low-tech” parent. What’s your take on that lifestyle?
RZ: I think it’s great to be thoughtful about the role of technology in your household and make informed decisions based on what’s right for your children and your particular circumstance. There’s lots of time for children to be exposed to technology in years to come, so if you want to have a low-tech household, power to you! That being said, I don’t advocate for a completely tech-free household, especially if you have young girls. We need more girls going into STEM fields!
Parents: You just had a new baby a few weeks ago. How are you adjusting to having two little ones around the house?
RZ: It’s absolute chaos! Happy, wonderful, amazing chaos…but chaos, nonetheless!
Parents: You’ve said before that you believe women can hold many titles. For you, along with being a CEO, author, radio host (and more!) you also hold the title of “mom.” What’s your favorite part of that job?
RZ: Of all the jobs I’ve held, “mom” is definitely the one I am proudest of. It’s just so amazing to see the world through a child’s eyes. We’re so busy rushing, rushing everywhere, I’ve found that having children has really forced me to stop and smell the flowers and prioritize what’s truly important. It’s also really brought my husband and I together around the values we share that we want to instill in our children, and the legacy that we want them to carry on. I’m totally outnumbered by boys now, though…help!
Photo of Randi Zuckerberg and her son: Delbarr MoradiAdd a Comment