Parenting In The Digital Age

This thread is dedicated to sharing struggles, best practices, solutions etc. when it comes to raising children in the digital age. It’s also a space to connect with other parents. Please be respectful and sensitive when disagreements arise… how we raise our children can be a touchy subject, but let’s use this thread to figure out what’s working and not working as we try and raise children during the largest social experiment in human history.

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I know a lot of my colleagues are happy to teach their 4 year olds to code, but we’ve taken the opposite approach with our (now) 10 year old. He uses an iPad all day at school, so we’re putting off getting him yet another screen to look at while he’s home. Instead we focus on uninstructed, unsequenced play: go outside and climb a tree.

For many reasons, we left the city and got rid of our smartphones and Facebook accounts. I think it’s almost inevitable that all our kids will be chained to screens at some point. Our goal is to push that off as long as possible.

I don’t know if it’s right, but I’m glad he can be alone with his thoughts and fill his days with creativing, exercise, and self-learning. He read 100 books last year.

[just trying to get this conversation started where @Max left off]

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I got rid of television when my older son was 11 (he is about to be 31) because of Victoria Secret commercials on at 8:00 at night. I figured no 11 year old needed that kind of stimulation. My younger son (who is 16) has never had network television in the house and has spent much of his time writing his own comic books and more recently screen-plays. At this point it is hard to keep him away from screens because, of course, he wants to do his own thing, but I do try to instill in him the idea that constant screens is not healthy. I probably don’t set a great example since I work a lot of the time when I am home (on the computer). It’s definitely a challenge!

Parenting philosophies can be personal and diverse and then what works for one family/child, may not work the same for another and strategies may need to change over time as well.

For our 9 year old daughter, we are currently not limiting device use as we feel being techie will help her more than harm her, but this is also due to her not using tech often during school and her (so far) making some good choices while at home.

E.g., she tends to prefer drawing for hours (markers/paper) or in the summer outside looking for ants, etc. While she does play some games, she spends more time working on skills such as art, video creation/editing, and daily Duolingo French practice.

For now it seems enough that we emphasize creating/learning over passive consumption and also not allowing her to create Facebook/social media accounts (with the exception of YouTube which is controlled fully by me). But should there come a time where she is turning to her phone more than to creative/skill building pursuits and/or people, then we will probably set more limits.

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Hi all, mother of three boys ages 20 - 5 years old. I’d like to start an informal tech council for parents. Best practices, alternatives to tech related education, studies on impact of learning to code versus time spent doing something else, etc. If anyone is interested please let me know. Thanks

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Carmen, would love to support this effort. I have three kids, all <10 years old. We limit passive screen time to Saturday mornings, but we’re trying to find ways to quantify positive/active tech use (coding games, creating art in Procreate, etc) vs. garbage passive time (Kids YouTube is probably #1 on my garbage list). The Common Sense Media family media and digital citizenship initiatives have been great resources.

I’d also love to discover (or create if nothing exists) a simple explainer chart that quantifies the amount of screen time + child’s age + type of interaction = potential harm. I’ve seen charts that quantify screen time and age, but nothing that gives a more comprehensive age bracketing/harm relationship by site. For instance, Kids YouTube might be a less harmful site for a 10 year old child who had language/query capabilities and had coaching on safe searching, but for a 3 year old using auto-play it’s almost immediately harmful.

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Carmen, and group - definitely interested in this effort of humane tech + responsible parenting (not just to tech, but to the content that the kids get exposed to through that tech!). My daughters - now 7 and 4 - and I’ve spent a good amount of time talking about global social issues they get exposed to living in NYC the last few years, and ask great questions (like the whole campaign last year, when I was working for Hillary as a policy advisor, on how they felt about good words and bad words candidates used…).

That said, my older one has taken coding class, but mostly just to start learning a new language like she learned Mandarin, Hindi, etc. and dance, piano…as things she’ll be exposed to in life. My favorite is that they love creating with their hands - making Lego robotics and circuits with their hands, making things work - way more fun to tinker especially at this age!

Hardest challenge for me is Daddy - how do you manage responsible digital exposure when parents disagree on tech philosophically, and the kids know they can manipulate the difference to get what they want? :frowning: (And sometimes managing my own demands for work and getting off my laptop or iPhone to get down on the floor to play with them when I really want to!)

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I like your idea. How do we get local groups started?

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It seems important that we as adults help our children be thoughtful, reflective, and intentional about their use of technology. As both a parent and educator, this topic seems to be fundamental to the well being of our children, ourselves, and our communities. To this end, Providence Day School has created a resource for teachers and parents to use to generate conversation and discussion about technology usage. Our digital citizenship resource is meant to provide common language as well as a collection of resources. The resource can be found at here. It is our hope that others will find this resource useful and use it as inspiration to create their own resources.

Our next idea is to develop a tool that encourages parents and students to discuss their digital well being in terms of what we consume, what we create, and the impact of technology on our well being. I would love to hear any thoughts about what a resource like this should include or what parents need a resource.

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I am living in the Netherlands, and am of the opinion that keeping your child from using tech at young age is somewhat of a lost battle. By doing this your kids will be introduced by tech by their peers and at certain age ‘demand’ to have a smartphone. Not giving in is no option by that time and when you do give them the phone their online behaviours will have already been formed by their friends and schoolmates, so they start snapchatting like crazy (or whatever it is they do online). You have lost control, and they don’t want to listen to the wise, belligerent words of their parents anymore.

Instead about one year before you give them that smartphone, you could provide a notebook or tablet to use at home and teach them to use tech and the internet in different ways. Learn programming (like with Scratch from MIT), create drawings with graphics design software, and use other educative apps. It should be fun, and not be too much (right now they are still willing to play outside, so motivate that).
And at the same time - while they are still listening to you - introduce them in playful ways with the dangers of social media use.

Now when peer pressure comes, and they get their phone, they are better prepared and know different ways to enjoy what’s available on the web, and hopefully use it much more responsibly (though it will still be a huge challenge).

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Arnold,
I appreciate so much what you wrote up there. I am torn. I also want to protect my children and keep them away from a lot of tech influence.

But I have to admit that while I learned programming BASIC out of books when I was ten (I was not allowed to have a PC), there was a couple of years later nothing cooler than a GameBoy, or later to kill Nazis on an ego-shooter at Castle Wolfenstein, to watch violent movies with Jean Claude van Damme or to buy “real” porn mags in the Netherlands (instead of the boring stuff you could get in Germany) prior to the internet offering it.

How does someone who’s heart is still beating faster when writing this end up not having a TV at home, no Facebook for over 3 years and no computer games?! I’ve purposely written this to stir a bit of a controversy, because the thing I am fearing the most is that we forget that we were youngsters once, too - and how old and boring the advices of our own parents sounded, who did not have a clue what was really going on. I remember a parents meeting at our school debating “Reading comics”. We were ten years old and had no good feelings about these dinosaurs around us.

This whole initiative for me here only makes sense if it is build on the premise that “this time, it’s different”, explaining that persuasive design is actually altering the attention spans of children, is actually lastingly harmful and is actually overruling any direct or indirect societal influence.

Thoughts?

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Ha ha, nice @asjf, I like your post :slight_smile: and actually I have had about the same intro to tech / games / internet that you explain here - playing multiplayer Doom with ethernet cards we obtained and cables over the roofs of our student dorms. But a question: Did you become addicted by these experiences you had in you youth?

I am only now - this last year - in danger of becoming addicted because I need to do promo for my startup ideas related to social media. It will be really hard if you try get your kid off FB or Snapchat for long, and keep them away from pornographic or extreme violence images/videos. But some exposure is probably not that bad, especially if they already come prepared by parents anticipating for what’s coming to them.

Honestly I don’t think this community will build a ‘this time its different’ solution - the issues are too complex for that, but rather provide a wide-ranging toolset and pointers and methods of how we can together do things differently.
There are sooo many good initiatives and projects to be found all over the place, and overall there is hugely growing awareness and willingness to change in larger society. The iron is hot, so to say…

I think most of these can co-exist together and should stimulate eachother, or better cooperate, to make it a permanent trend in society. Also, only if there are enough reactionary forces will the big players be really inclined to change there ways, if only to protect their bottom line.

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Arnold, Thank you for your great answer. I am glad to hear that you can relate :-). I just want to clarify that the “This time it’s different” is a quote of http://humanetech.com/problem. Here it is laid out that AI, 24/7, Social Control, and Ultra-fine Personalization make us vulnerable to a much higher degree than any technology before. I think this is a hypothesis, and a good one. But I’d want this to be supported by studies. And additionally, I’d want us to think of what in our arsenal of society still is there to “protect” kids, e.g. valuable time spent together, role models outside the nuclear family, meaningful work that has to be done (preferably with others), meaningful social connections.

The link to your startup shows a visually very appealing site. I’d like to know more!

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Aha… well… then we are committed!! :smiley:

Thank you for the compliment. I will reach out to you off-forum…

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Hi Carmen! We should connect - I’d love to be of service in this arena! I could write a whole long description of what i do or you can just go to my website and get a better idea!

www.reconnect-families.com

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Given the focus of this organization, and the technology targeted at kids brains, this really stood out at me today.
https://sparrowmobile.com/
Not because it’s yet another fintech enabling the digital divide with skills, but because of the buy one-give one away model - in this case to less privileged girls of color through Black Girls Code (an awesome org with a great leader). Seems to exacerbate the addiction to more kids, with less privilege, in communities that also need a variety of other supports. Lots of phone companies did this several years ago to enable the mobile money revolution (esp in emerging markets).

As someone in the Tech4Good partnerships space for years, I see a lot of companies and founder/CEOs, as well-intentioned as can be, trying to adopt the “Tom’s Shoes” 1-for-1 model of giving back in some way to do good through their business.
Except that 1) philanthropy is not sustainable - it should be designed catalytically; 2) we would better serve those by helping them gain the business expertise that made you a successful business in the first place (and funding); and 3) even Tom’s and Blake Mycosie have had to iterate away from their “give 1” original model because it’s not as “good” for the receiver as it sounds (we helped them switch to sourcing & producing locally in places like Haiti, etc. through the Clinton Foundation).

Here’s a good overview - that more need to read if we’re considering more "tech giveaways."

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I’m interested. My son is college age and going into a tech field, and he and I are both interested in how to make technology use more healthy for kids. www.SensorySmartParent.com

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I did not limit tech with my son, now in college, who had sensory processing disorder/differences, and I’m uneasy with the stigmatizing of tech. I emphasized balance. I did things like make him have outdoor time and visual breaks to look into the distance and hear in nature, have him talk over videos and video games and discuss them with me, and later, read articles on technology and video games. He never had the slightest interest in social media outside of gaming chats–“Why would I join Facebook when it’s all about bullying?” Now that he’s a young adult, I think he is fairly close to a sweet spot of balance.
Our challenge wasn’t addiction/compulsion so much as his needing a break from:
–the auditory/verbal learning at school, which are his weaknesses (he had an apraxia diagnosis) whereas visual/spatial intelligence and memory are gifts
–the challenges of developing mastery and being encouraged at something he was good at in a K-12. Schools are focused not on creativity and collaboration but on competition and individual achievement by very narrow definitions (scoring well on multiple choice tests, for example–very hard for kids with LDs).
Watching Screenagers at a public showing, I found several parents had a similar response: Where’s the Screenagers for kids like ours who have very different brain wiring? I wouldn’t chastise a child with musical talents for wanting to play a musical instrument all the time. Why would I chastise a visual/spatial thinker for gravitating to tech? What does balance look like?
I don’t have any neurotypical kids, so I’m always curious about the differences and similarities. I look forward to seeing posts from others in this forum.

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Another thing that parents can do to manage the smartphone use of their kids is become their ‘Acount manager:slight_smile:

Agree with your kid that you will be the one that creates the account, and only you will have the passwords. Then use a password manager to manage the list of passwords for all apps your kid uses, so they have no problem logging in. Also preferably the settings of the phone itself should be managed exclusively by you (e.g. to turn off the blinking notification light on the front)

The advantages:

  • You get to set the preferences, i.e. notification and privacy settings
  • You can check in on their accounts, see what they are doing
  • Your kid comes to you to request additional apps installed (if you control access to the appstore as well)
  • You have a way to ‘punish’ misbehaviour by locking down certain apps

There already exist some (paid) apps that do most or all of this, but I do not have pointers…

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My son is 7, will be 8 in 5 months time. For us at home the approach has always been about balance. His screen time for play is limited daily (1 hour), but if he’s using a device for a specific agreed upon learning objective then he can spend longer in front of screens, e.g. he uses Linguascope to help him learn Spanish, we create YouTube videos together of us singing/playing instruments for fun. The distinction I try to draw is around using tech just to consume (more passive, less desirable) vs using it to create (more active, more desirable).

As a family we recently had a conversation about contracting around tech, and we found that really helpful. We sat down with our son and discussed agreements we could make between each other relating to tech. Some of those were about online safety, some were about access to technology, some were about what technology is for. I would be happy to share more about this contracting process if anyone is interested. We found it useful to frame the conversation around tech not just in terms of prohibitions, but rather in terms of responsibilities - that feels more empowering for him.

I’d be interested in hearing from anyone else who is approaching this area in similar ways

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