5 Things I’ve Learned About Raising Kids in the Digital Age
Today’s post was written by our guest blogger Rachel Jordan, a Bright Horizons employee, mom of two children, ages 2 and 6, and moderator of our recent webinar Beyond Screen Time: Raising Children in the Digital Age.
Parenting is not easy. That’s why you’re reading this post and probably a dozen others, right? But parenting is even more complicated when you layer in iPhones and tablets…and SnapChat, Facebook, and Twitter…and Minecraft…and Monkey Preschool Lunchbox…and YouTube, and a million other things.
Even as a marketing professional and a relatively digital-savvy mom, the number of tech-related choices I must make on a daily basis – for myself and for my children – can be intensely overwhelming. I struggle with keeping up with the rapid evolution of the tech world, while figuring out the role that tech plays in my family’s life.
So I was thrilled that Devorah Heitner, founder of Raising Digital Natives, was able to join us for our recent webinar and that I was able to ask her the questions that are top of mind for so many of us who are bringing up kids in a tech-first world. Devorah shared a lot of helpful advice; here are five key lessons that I’m following up on at home:
5 TAKEAWAYS FOR PARENTS WHO ARE RAISING KIDS IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Access to technology is not an all-or-nothing proposition.
Yes, there are screen-free households. If that works for you, great. But a reasonable amount of screen time, interacting with the right kinds of technology, is also perfectly fine. And not just when mommy needs three minutes for a shower for goodness’ sake.
Technology can enhance our family life.
When your child asks to play a game, ask to play it together. When you watch a movie, talk about the characters and lessons learned. Or…allow screen time to help the dinner rush go by more peacefully than hectically. Watching my six-year-old explain a book on his tablet to my two-year-old is precious, and not just because it allows me to cook in peace. Remember this simple question: Is it consumption time or creation time?
Good tech behavior starts with mom and dad.
Toddlers have an amazing way of mirroring adults’ behavior through play. Mine recently refused to go anywhere without her “phone” (an old Blackberry of mine). Leaving the house, she’d suddenly exclaim, “My phone!” and begin a frantic search.
It’s great that we can be so connected to each other, but we don’t need to be available 24/7. I’m going to learn to put the phone down, not only to be truly present in real life, but to teach my children to do so. First step: create an in-home “signal” my spouse and I can use when one of us is spending too much time on technology – a nice way to say, “You’re being a screen monster.” Our signal might be something silly like giving each other a knowing look while saying, “Your mom called.”
Parents are creating their children’s digital footprints, before the kids have a say.
I wouldn’t want someone posting photos or personal stories about me online without my knowledge or permission. So I’m going to be thoughtful about what I post about my kids, where I post it, and who can see it. When appropriate, I’ll give my kids a say in what I post. Doing so also models good behavior for them to follow. Just imagine your child snapping a pic of you, before the morning coffee, and asking before he posts it!
Mentoring vs. monitoring
This is such a tricky topic. I don’t know how I’ll feel once my kids are old enough to have their own digital lives. At the moment, I probably do a mix of both. I control all the apps and games my kids have access to, and how much time they can spend on those things.
But pretty soon, they will be tweeting or instagramming or whatever the kids are doing by then. I hope that I’ll be able to have open conversations with them about what they’re doing, and that I’ll feel secure that my mentoring will have prepared them for their own digital lives.
However, I have to admit I also might not rule out monitoring. And should I go that route, as Devorah recommends, I hope to communicate with my kids openly about what I’m monitoring and why.
It really is a new world that we live in as parents, and I’m thankful to have some help navigating it. If you missed the webinar or would like to hear more of Devorah’s tips, a recording is available to listen to here.
I’m Rachel, a corporate marketing professional, and mom whose days are fueled by music, podcasts, dark chocolate, and just a smidge of bad TV.