Parenting in the Digital Age

This week, our counselors and tech team hosted a parent coffee morning on the subject of “Parenting in the Digital Age”. As the parent of a rising first grader who will be asked to buy my child an iPad for use at school next year, I was very interested in hearing what was said at this morning meeting. 

As a member of our school strategy team, I have been working with Grade 1 teachers to analyse at we already do in relation to iPad use. Our wonderings are focusing around the big ideas of:

  • educating students to be more mindful
  • the developmental path toward self-regulation
  • tech addiction – what are the facts?
  • what are our intentions for using technology in the first place

I recently came across the organization ZeroToThree. They caught my eye on Twitter when offering a webinar about screen time for young children in which they were planning on talking about “minimizing the negative effects of screen time”. 

Screen Sense: All the Need-to-Know Research on Screens for Children Under Three from ZEROTOTHREE on Vimeo.

This was the first I had seen anyone suggest that negative effects existed. Take a look. Most people when you ask them (and I did) start talking about creation over consumption. This is good. I have said these same things before. But I haven’t known what to say when it comes to minimizing what we know to be true: that there are negative effects of extended time on screens. Here are my notes from the Webinar. And here is a really useful and detailed report on the research behind the webinar

So, what are my big takeaways from looking into this thus far: 

E-AIMS

Negative effects of screen time can be minimised if the quality of content that your child is consuming/interacting with is high. If the TV they are watching is educational and interactive, if the apps are challenging and require mind-on thinking. ZeroToThree suggest you evaluate media and apps using E-AIMS:

  • Is it engaging? Is there a goal or story as part of the experience?
  • Is the child actively involved – that is, are they required to have their minds on? Are they responding to questions? Is it interactive?
  • Is the content meaningful? Does it reflect their everyday life and therefore can they relate to it?
  • Is it (or can it be) social? Is it language rich? Is there talking or responding? For some games or online experiences, this element can be provided by an adult or other child so there is an element of exchange within the experience. 

There is a flowchart to guide you through choosing media content that is available for download on the ZeroToThree website

For a copy of the full flow-chart, visit the ZeroToThree Website.

Evaluate

The suggestion is that all media pass through a simple test: 

  • Is it age appropriate?
  • Is your child on ‘auto-pilot’ while using?
  • Is your child challenged but not frustrated? 

This made me think about apps we load on iPads. Do they pass this test? Are we paying as much time and attention to the apps our kids use as we do the books they read? Are we as discerning? Are we seeking out the same quality? Are we playing the games with our kids the same way we might read with them (or read the same book as them before they read it?). 

Or, as Marina Gijzen put it: 

Is it intentional or out of control? 

Great question. I would argue that we have good intentions but our reality does not always match up. We are inconsistent. We are human. We want to allow for student choice – except when they make “poor” choices. In the case of technology, I would argue a need for a family/home/school/class agreement. I would also advocate for teachers to be mindful of when they are asking kids to use their tech and when it could be tech free. Sure there are great brainstorming apps, but there are markers and paper and they work well too. What percentage of your lesson are you expecting or allowing kids to be on a device? Now multiply that by the number of classes your child has in a day. 

What is your school doing to address tech use in your school beyond the ‘creation/consumption’ mandate? How are we helping our kids to self-regulate their behavior?

In terms of my own parent community, I enjoyed listening to our parents at the coffee morning. It made me think that there is still somewhat of a “them and us” divide with regard to kids and tech when really we all want the same thing: happy, healthy kids. Now to keep the conversations moving forward on how best we might achieve this in a way that is respectful, meaningful, and mindful.  Wish us luck!