8 Tips to Help Parents Raise Stronger 21st Century Learners

As we approach the end of 2012 and the holiday season that will surely introduce new gadgets and devices into many of our households, it’s a good time to reassess family digital expectations.

Learning in the 21st Century requires that children competently use digital resources much of the time. To do this each student needs plenty of experience making choices, understanding limits, and mastering the art of filtering out what is immaterial at any given point. Children who get this guidance at home and at school are the most prepared to become effective learners.

These eight tips aim to help parents of digital kids to get started. If you teach, consider sharing them with your students’ parents.

1. Place computers and tablet devices in central, well-traveled locations — away from bedrooms and private spaces.

2. Make adults, not children, the administrators on all computers, including laptops until you are certain of each child’s decision-making.

3. Print and post rules and expectations. Specify the times when you do not want your children using computers. Emphasize that your family rules are in effect when your child goes to a friend’s house.

4. Help your children to come up with a strategy that helps them to distance themselves whenever and wherever inappropriate digital activities occur.

5. If your children have mobile phones, have you discussed appropriate use, texting, and limits on a phone’s digital camera? Download a PDF of my cell phone contract.                      

6. Interactive mealtime conversations help children become stronger learners. Banish gadgets from the dinner table. For a wonderful overview of the digital influences in our lives and how we might balance technology and non-technology experiences, read the book Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers. (NPR Story about the book).

7. Discuss the difference between intention and consequence, especially how words on an e-mail or text message can mean one thing to the sender and another thing to the receiver.

8. Complete a media inventory in each child’s bedroom. How many different connections are available and can media interfere with your child’s sleep? Seek ways to minimize the distractions. Check out some of the resources and policy statements from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as well as some of the other media resources that are available from the organization’s website.

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