My friend and colleague at Common Sense, Dr. Yalda T. Uhls, has written a book that covers the topic that most of us think about almost every day: what is going on with our kids and the (ever present) technology in their lives? Dr. Uhls discusses the research behind our nagging questions, looking at brain development, social media use, and learning. She concludes that childrens’ brains are adaptable (or “plastic”) and that kids readily adapt to the social and educational environments in which they operate. Our job, as parents, is to teach them to do that wisely and safely.
Media Moms and Digital Dads: A Fact not Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age, released yesterday on Amazon, takes the position that the more things change, the more they stay the same – in other words, parents worried that kids would be ruined by romantic novels, radio, and tv – over the course of the ages. And the kids are still all right.
In a stroke of fortuitous timing, two weeks ago the American Academy of Pediatricians revised their advice on screen time for kids under two. Here is Dr. Uhls on the topic:
“While they didn’t go so far as to change their recommendations on the amount of screen time that is healthy for children, they did state that the quality of the media content is more important than time spent. They also made it clear that online relationships are essential for adolescent development. Ultimately, their message was that media is just another environment—like the playground—where children will spend time, but require careful supervision to do so safely.”
So what does that mean for us? Parents whose kids are immersed in a wholly new landscape of childhood must strike a balance between the tried and true methods of raising kids and guiding their children to use the new tools safely and wisely.
Again, Dr. Uhls:
It’s time for adults—digital immigrants to the next generation’s natives—to adapt, step in, and be that balance. Instead of focusing our energy on being “for” or “against” technology, let’s guide children in how to use it wisely and safely. Let’s help them make the most of this new place they love, while continuing to teach them the importance of face-time, discipline, and moderation. Judging by history, when this generation grows up, they’ll be busy coping with their own fears of whatever new thing their kids are using.