After nine years of blogging at MediaTechParenting, I’ve written posts about kids, technology, parenting, screen time, citizenship, 21st Century life, digital devices — well you get the idea. Now a New York Times Smarter Living published report summarizes a good deal of what I’ve been writing about in a parents’ guide to raising and guiding kids in the digital world.
How (and When) to Limit Kids’ Tech Use by Melanie Pinola (@MelaniePinola) includes just about everything a digital age parent needs to know. The comprehensive and well-packaged guide overflows with information. Keep it nearby, whether your child is a new baby, a teenager, or any age in between.
Several years ago I uploaded a post, Advice from Digital Kids to Parents, including some of the thoughts that kids in grades 3-6 shared with me about adults’ digital activities. My students often commented that it was unfair when parents asked their kids to sign a digital life contract or agreement because adults then proceeded to break many of the common sense rules.
For some time I’ve felt those children’s voices bubbling up with their ideas, and since today (Sunday) is the last day of National Poetry Month 2017, I listened to those voices, penning this poem about kids, parents, contracts, and common sense.
So here’s my second, and I hope amusing poem about digital life from kids’ perspectives. (Read my first poem.) Children have brought up all these events in discussions with during digital citizenship activities.
Hey Mom and Dad…
I’m really glad I got my phone,
It’s cool and lots of fun.
I’m texting friends and playing games,
It seems I’m never done.
I signed your contract with my name,
Yes, it was right to do.
But I wish you’d take the time
To follow those rules too!
Written by Bruce Feiler, the article describes how families go about addressing and solving the day-to-day digital challenges that occur in 21st Century life. Feller spent six weeks asking parents, via social media, to share their rules and strategies related to raising children in the digital world. He describes in some detail the parents’ ideas, including thoughts about mobile phones, homework, digital devices and bedtime, social media use, consequences, and how families go about setting up phone-free family time.
While soliciting answers to 20 questions, as Feller did, is not scientific research, he did gather some interesting information about the challenges of raising children and the conversations that occur between children and their parents in the 21st Century digital world. Moreover, the article begins and ends with delightful references to the well-known musical, The Music Man, and its song,Trouble in River City.
My favorite digital parenting idea, relayed by Feller, came from a family that adopted a strategy for keeping children focused during device-free activities. They told their children that if a device was picked up, the parents would get to see texts on that phone and read them aloud. Clever idea.
While he had been fragile for some time following an accident, his extraordinary influence on teaching and learning, including how he really created the maker movement more than 25 years ago, will continue for many years to come.
Without his wisdom and vision, many educators in the school technology fields, where I spent most of my career, would not have been fortunate enough to pursue exciting and deeply meaningful vocations. Every school, every teacher, every educational technology specialist, and every K-12 technology director can trace their professional activities back to Dr. Papert’s deep understanding of the power of learning with computers and digital devices. The Media Lab remembrance page notes that:
Papert’s career traversed a trio of influential movements: child development, artificial intelligence, and educational technologies. Based on his insights into children’s thinking and learning, Papert recognized that computers could be used not just to deliver information and instruction, but also to empower children to experiment, explore, and express themselves.
Summer 2016 is almost here. It’s a great time for family fun, outdoor activities, visiting museums and historical sites, and choosing from all sorts of camps and special programs. Problem is, many kids spend a lot of their summer vacation in front of screens, and it’s one of the hardest time of the year to focus on digital moderation.
With less frenetic schedules and no school, the summer months are a good time for parents to learn more about the digital whirl that’s such a huge part of kids’ 21st Century lives. So when school is out, plan to do some connected world exploring and learning together, concentrating on projects that can help family members — children and their parents — connect with interesting and meaningful work together. Everyone will figure out more about digital life and add some variety to the types of digital activities that they typically do.
Below are 10 family digital project summer suggestions — all activities require collaboration — to consider for the upcoming summer vacation.
While most kids carefully follow the rules that parents and teachers set out — no names, addresses, telephone numbers, or other personal information — when it comes to the big privacy picture, it turns out that many children understand very little about their personal data, how it accumulates, and how it affects privacy. (Check out my privacy links at the end of this post.)
Thus we need an alternate privacy teaching strategy that helps 21st Century kids — all ages really — understand how their digital-world data accumulates — even when users observe the all-important safety rules.
It’s back-to-school 2015, a time to list the many tasks we need to accomplish before the start of the new academic year. We think about school supplies, new clothes and shoes, new lunch boxes, and, of course, new digital devices and computers. We check off our lists as we go, getting our 21st Century children ready to return to school.
Yet back-to-school season is also a useful time for parents to list, consider, and articulate connected-life expectations, old and new, for the coming year. What do you want your children to do or not do? How do you expect them to behave when a friend encourages behavior that is not allowed at home?