How to Parent in the Digital Age: An Interview with Raising Digital Families Author Amy Lupold Bair
With the online world changing at such a rapid pace, one of the challenges that parents face is keeping up with the digital age that their kids are growing up in. Amy Lupold Bair is former English teacher turned blogger and social media marketer as well as a mother of two elementary aged children whose familiarity of the online space and experience in raising her own digital kids led her to write Raising Digital Families.
In the book, Bair writes,“The technology that your children and their friends use daily may be unfamiliar to you. Even if you dive right into technology as quickly as your children do, you may not be aware of how your children experience the same platforms and devices. You also may not be familiar with the challenges and dangers associated with these technologies— dangers that are often unique to them.”
Available online or found in the technology section of your local bookstore, Raising Digital Families is a handy reference guide for parents who are weighing the pros and cons of bringing various devices into their homes, allowing kids to play online games, allowing the use of social media as their teen turns 13, and how to ensure they remain safe. Raising Digital Families is a must-have parenting book for families with kids of all ages especially due to development of more educational apps and games for toddlers.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Bair and our conversation covered how to being conversations with kids about digital topics, the way she manages screen time in her home, personal concerns about her kids being online, and what’s next for her.
Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): Sometimes parents shy away from talking about difficult topics and things they feel they don’t know much about. Your book is a great resource and starting point for parents to educate themselves but in your opinion, what’s the best way to start discussions about topics like screen time, cyberbullying, and online safety?
Amy Lupold Bair (ALB): I think that if parents start by asking their kids to share what they know about each of the digital topics covered in the book, they’ll be surprised at how willing most kids are to take the lead in getting the entire family on the same page. Topics like cyberbullying and online safety are the native language of the current generation of kids, all of them digital natives. They’ve heard about them in school and in the media. It is only fitting that they should also discuss these topics at home and be provided with parameters and support by their parents.
TSP: You’re raising digital kids. How do you balance screen time and other activities in your own house?
ALB: We set strict screen time limits from birth, so my kids have fortunately grown up expecting rules use of digital devices. There are some devices that are only able to be used on the weekend, which helps carve out time during the week for after school activities, homework, and outside play. For example, we have a policy in our home called Wii Wiikends, so the kids know that they can only play Wii games from Friday night through Sunday. We also try to suggest and encourage specific physical and outdoor activities at the same time that we ask for devices to be turned off and put away. Sometimes replacing one activity with another is easier than just asking kids to stop what they are doing.
TSP: As a parent, what is your biggest concern about your kids being online?
ALB: I know that many parents are concerned about issues such as cyberbullying, online predators, and identity theft, but my biggest concern online is loss of innocence. We’ve worked hard to protect our children from inappropriate content in television and movies, but the Internet provides kids with access to thousands of unsavory sites with just one misplaced click. Thankfully there are enough safe search tools and rules within our family to protect our kids from everything from unfortunate Google Image search results to inappropriate suggested video links at the end of YouTube content.
TSP: In your opinion, what are the top three things that all parents should know about raising digital families?
This is a tough one!
- I think parents should know that anything sent digitally, whether through text or posted online, can NOT be taken back. Apps like Snapchat promise a share and delete, but it only takes a moment for someone to capture a screenshot of the image on their phone’s screen.
- I think parents should also know that their children are likely being exposed to more technology than they realize. There’s a section in Raising Digital Families For Dummies that talks about hidden screen time including computer use in the classroom, handing your child your phone in the doctor’s waiting room, playing video games at a friend’s house and more. When parents sit down to create rules and set parameters, they need to look honestly at their children’s typical day.
- Finally, I think parents need to know that even if they feel like they can’t stay on top of everything, they should still dive in and start somewhere. They may be surprised at how manageable a digital family can be!
TSP: You’re an English teacher turned, blogger and social media marketer, and now a published author. What’s next for you?
ALB: Right now the focus in on spreading the word to parents of digital natives that tools are available to them, including those listed in Raising Digital Families For Dummies. The next project is heading up the latest revision of Blogging For Dummies later this year!
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