I find there is tension between wanting kids to be adequately experienced in using contemporary technology and at the same time worrying about kids being socially disadvantaged if technologies are limited. There may also be worry about excessive use causing distraction and impacting children’s growth and well-being. Some advice columns may suggest parents access resources and become more informed. Sites I commonly suggest include Media Smarts – http://mediasmarts.ca/ and Common Sense Media – https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
Advice may also include guidelines or rules for using technology. For example, banning devices from the dinner table or requiring children hand-in their devices before bed time. Setting guidelines is important. But, what else can parents do? I will admit that I don’t have any quick- fix tips for you. As a researcher in this area, I also experience difficulties in this area and struggle with these tensions as well.
One key piece of advice beyond becoming more informed and setting guidelines, is to have conversations with your child by asking questions. Research indicates that having a strong parent-teen relationship and having regular discussions with children can reduce risky online behaviors and impact adolescent’s decisions. Depending on the age of your child, you may need to adapt the questions. Also, don’t wait until there’s an issue to have the conversation and ask questions. Technology is continuously changing, so continuous communication is necessary with our children. Here’s some examples of questions I use:
- How can I best help or support you to use technology?
- How are you monitoring your own screen-media usage? How do the reports help you?
- What is your perception of gender differences at home/school/or other places in the community regarding use of technology? Do you have any examples of gender differences?
- How are you using technology in school? How are you using technology for consuming information or creating? How do you wish you were using technology in schools? How do you think technology could be used to help you learn?
- How do you perceive my actions/modeling of use of technology? Give me two stars and one wish for how I currently use technology.
You might find some of the responses surprise you or may not be exactly what you expected. We need generative conversations to develop a contemporary image of technology use for learning and we need to involve our girls in leading this conversation. What other questions would you suggest?