Currently, a conversation about screen time is occurring on my area listserv. It’s interesting to read various points of view. Some people feel that various apps designed to limit screen time and other digital activities are the way to go. Others point to need to be hands-on about contracts, agreements, and digital rules of the road. Almost everyone seems to be frustrated about defining the line between schoolwork and recreational screen times. Twenty-first Century digital parenting never lacks for challenges!
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.
How do you count screen time? Screens are so much a part of our lives, and in just a few moments we can check texts, read the newspaper, and map out a bike route. Our kids see this.
It’s been fascinating to watch my grandson gradually become interested in light and then screens over these past four years. Early on he’d glance at any area that was lit up — a window, a lamp, a toy — and eventually I’d see him study, with rapt concentration, a lit up screen or unusual light anywhere in the vicinity. When he was a bit over two, his parents got him a fake toy screen — not at all interesting — but real screens, the type we use in almost every part of our lives, grabbed his attention, and fairly soon he wanted to do things with those devices.
Now four, he thinks screens are a big deal. He’d love to play games, watch TV, or just get mom or dad’s iPad or mobile phone to play a game. However, although he lives in a home with multiple screens, his time is limited, and digital devices are rarely used as a baby sitter or diversion. Besides, he has books, lots of books.
The thing is, I love Apple. I’ve owned various Apple computers since 1984 and iPhones for almost ten years. Not to mention various other items like iPods and IPads. But once in a while, I find the policies in the App Store to be dispiriting. Now is one of those times.
As a specialist in 21st Century educational technology and media literacy, I’ve often helped parents select a parental control app that is right for each family. Lots of these apps are out there, and they allow adults to ensure that their children are not misusing their mobile devices
Many of these parents realized the need for these apps, bought them — and used them — early on. Digital parenting is challenging, many of these parents took their responsibilities seriously, and the companies that enabled these good decisions should also be taken seriously.
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.
Crafting screen time guidelines for all family members is a great back-to-school undertaking, but coming up with guidance that is fair and equitable requires family members to consider and answer a range of questions.
Devoting beginning-of-the-year time — at home and at school — to examine solutions to the screen time equation will help 21st Century children find and understand answers to the most challenging question that so many of us ask, “What exactly is screen time?” To help get started the whole family can listen to a radio program about screen time, a 2015 broadcast on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show.
Check out the interesting new research just out from Common Sense Media about the issues and challenges when it comes to 21st Century digital kids and their mobile devices. The image depicts a range of statistics and device issues, collected via a poll of 1,200 parents and teens.
This infographic can be an excellent resource to use for family conversations about teens’ and children’s screen and digital device times (and adults’ times, too). It offers a range of information that can help parents discuss potential problems and concerns.