Posts Tagged ‘ digital kids ’

Five Ways to Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Relationship with Technology—and You

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

By Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D.

Photo: Claire Holt

Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D., author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. To learn more about how your relationship with technology can intersect with your child’s life – for better and for worse – head over to the 92Y Parenting Conference in New York on February 10, or watch the livecast right here at Parents.com.

The single most important relationship in your child’s life is the one she finds with you. What happens when you add a tablet, smartphone, laptop, or desktop computer that routinely pulls you away? What does it mean when you use screens and apps as a pacifier for your baby or toddler, or as a babysitter or teacher? Tech not only changes the iconic picture of the parent-child relationship–it changes the relationship itself. There are so many ways that tech expands our connectivity with each other and with the wider world. The challenge we all face now is managing our relationship with tech so that it doesn’t take away from our relationship with our kids and family.

In my six months on the road since The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age was released, in deep conversation with kids, parents, an educators, the most asked question is “how?” How can I get a handle on this while my child is young? How can our family make some changes in habits we can all see aren’t the best? Kids themselves are asking, too. They may rarely admit it to us as parents, but they want us to set limits, to show them how to set limits, to model a life offline that is rich and real.

Here are five ways to support a sustainable relationship with technology for you and your child:

• Let your infant and young child’s room be a screen-free room. Let the space between you—playing, eating, strolling, care-giving—be tech free. Your child will join tech culture soon enough. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges a screen-free environment for children under two years old, and a thoughtful, limited exposure for the nursery and pre-school age child. In general, power down screens, pick up a book, and read or playfully engage with your child. Let your child plug into you.

• Don’t let the magic of the screen replace the magic of real-life play. Make a list of four or five different non-screen activities, such as drawing, building with Legos or playing outside, and carry it with you so you can use it as a reminder. Unplugging from tech is a struggle for most of us; share that with your child, perhaps recruiting them to do something together. Know that when you model the struggle and the choice to unplug and do, you’re showing them how it’s done.

• Create rituals for you and your child that acknowledge you’re turning your attention elsewhere. At designated times, give yourself the uninterrupted time to get your work done. But stay offline and present for at least 45 minutes from the moment you pick your child up from school or day care. Create your own Responsible Use Contract that everyone sticks to—including you! Be clear about what kinds of screen time are okay, where, and when. Through these conversations, your child becomes more self-aware, and understands the tech relationship as something to be managed, something for which we dictate the terms.

• Be picky about the types of tech-based media your child interacts with. Choose shows that teach them about the world around them in a way that is kind, hopeful and encouraging; not bratty, sarcastic, fast, or frightening. Pick any media exposure as carefully as you would pick a babysitter to leave alone with your baby. Common Sense Media is an excellent resource in this regard.

• Remember: With infants and young children, especially, an app is not a “safe distraction” like a stuffed animal or a musical mobile. Neurologically, it’s a stimulant. When we give babies and toddlers stimulants instead of a calming attention and offer tech distractions from ordinary life instead of guidance through it, we teach them at a very young age to deal with life’s ups and downs by plugging into external sources to self-regulate rather than develop those skills within. Resist the urge to let tech replace genuine parental support and guidance through moments of frustration, boredom, or other dissatisfaction.

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Attention Digital Dragons: You’re Not Alone!

Monday, November 25th, 2013

We’ve had helicopter moms. And tiger mothers. I’d like to propose a third parent type: the digital dragon. You know who you are. Your toddlers still color with crayons in restaurants. Your preschoolers have never logged $249 worth of accidental in-app purchases on your iPhone. Your bigger kids have signed a contract like this to ensure the responsible use of devices. And everyone in the house knows that what you’re screening on movie night needs to be cleared through the Common Sense Media site.

A couple hundred dragon types gathered into a packed room last week to hear Chelsea Clinton moderate a panel hosted by Common Sense Media about how to raise caring kids in a digital world. On the stage: Jim Steyer (founder/CEO of CSM), Dr. Howard Gardner (professor of education at Harvard and the author of the book The App Generation) and Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defending the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. There were many interesting nuggets, including the fact that a recent report by CSM on kids’ mobile use in America finds that the average amount of time they spend has tripled in the last two years. And that California has passed what’s called the “eraser button bill” which requires web sites to allow kids under age 18 to remove their posts if they want to do so.

But for this dragon lady, the joy of the event was being reminded that I am not alone. Because it can sometimes feel as if I am the only parent who is being called a “jerk” by my kid because I refuse to let him explore the digital universe untethered.  I felt so much more comfortable with my own fire-breathing behavior as the mom of two boys, 9 and 12, when Bazelon, mom of two boys ages 10 and 13, explained her caution with the internet by saying, “I would not open my front door in the city where we live and send my children out and say, ‘good luck.’” Right! Or when Steyer, a father of four, said he is “referred to by my kids as the world’s most embarrassing dad.” Hey, I thought that was my husband!

Don’t get me wrong: I said dragon parent, not luddite parent. I am wholly in favor of kids having access to digital tools—with limits and supervision. And we moms and dads can’t delegate this to the school and expect them to deal with it. Just as it is your responsibility to have the sex talk, it’s also your job to have the digital-safety talk. And the appropriateness-of-sharing talk. And the no-posting-photos-from-parties-not-everyone-was-invited-to talk. And many others. Key is to have these chats in a way that encourages your child to put himself in another’s shoes. As the speakers pointed out, as less communication happens face to face, kids miss out on learning to read the facial expressions and vocal cues that can help them feel empathy. It may be harder, then, for them to know what is hurtful to another child. One of the hardest conversations I’ve had with my kids about the power of a text message started with the words “Imagine how you would feel if…”

One fine place to start the process is by taking this new quiz to assess how digitally healthy your family is right now. And then if you want to meet fellow dragons, consider lifting your eyes from your phone (yes, we dragons can be guilty of major “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” behavior) and talking to parents at your child’s playgroup or school to compare notes. If the mood in the room last week is any indication you will find that even in this age of sharing, many other dragons are struggling and feeling like they too are alone.

 

Image: Shutterstock

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Can’t find a movie you can all agree on? Try a board game!

 

 

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