Guiding our kids into their fast-changing futures.

The Trials of Toddler Tech

Continuing the kids and screens conversation we started here last week, Nick Bilton in the New York Times asks “What does the tablet do to the developing mind? Short answer? No one is quite sure, though everyone seems to agree that we need more research to find out. It’s more about the experiences missed when we iParent via devices.

Regardless the unknowns, some Australian toddlers will be getting the newest tablets in an effort to “heighten engagement with learning in a play-based environment.” And PBS Kids has launched its first app for mobile devices “designed specifically for parents to help them build early math and literacy skills for children 4 and under.”

The grand experiment continues…

We’re wondering what you think about the unknowns of technology use among our youngest children.

Is Mobile Making it Impossible to be a “Helicopter Parent”?

The short summary of these two great posts? Stop monitoring, start mentoring. With the explosion of mobile phones and tablets finding their way into kids’ hands, it’s becoming almost impossible for parents (or schools, for that matter) to continually monitor the activities that are happening there. USA Today reports that the latest round of free apps (like Kik and Snapchat) and and sites that our kids are using to connect are making Facebook look like, um, fax machines.

And Anne Collier at Net Family News makes the finer point that while the “mobile trend makes it a lot harder to hover,” that’s mostly good news “where healthy kids are concerned.”

Here a Screen, There a Screen, Everywhere a Screen Screen…A Good Thing for our Kids?

In this long but engaging piece from the Atlantic (which, full disclosure, I read on a screen), Hanna Rosin explores the complexities of parenting at a moment of huge change when it comes to kids and tech. How young is too young? How much time in front of screens is too much for any age? And where’s the manual? (Hint: There isn’t one.)

Rosin takes us on a journey of surprise, angst, fear and a whole bunch of other emotions that are tied to this bumpy transition parents and others are trying to navigate as app and social media publishers target an increasingly youthful audience for their wares.

If you’re struggling (like I am) with navigating a balance between real life and screen life for your children, read on.

Not to date myself, but the only screens I had growing up were a black and white Sylvania television set and, when I was a teenager, Pong, which we actually played on the black and white Sylvania, so I guess that doesn’t count. Today, most of my waking hours are spent in front of one of any number of screens: computer, tablet, phone, television, and, maybe soon, wristwatch. (Dick Tracy anyone?)

Regardless of what age we are, the screens have changed since we were kids. And they’ll continue to change. This is certain. And in many ways, the rapid and radical shifts that new technologies bring to our lives make parenting around this stuff feel like a crapshoot.

My two teenagers tell me they’re the only ones in the county that don’t have iPhones. They’re shocked when, in their presence, I tell other parents that our Internet connection goes down by design at 9 pm every night, or that I have the passwords to their Facebook accounts.  This isn’t easy space to make sense of, but all my wife and I know is that while we both love technology and connections, we also want to balance that with the real world of bumps and bruises that come with play outside, and the personal interactions and negotiations that require a real person standing in front of you to figure out.

But that balance stuff is messy, and shifting daily. I find myself constantly trying to reach into the future and understand what rules or expectations I set around the technology today will best serve my kids down the road. I’m 100% certain that my own kids will need to be literate and fluent at connecting with all sorts of people online, strangers included, and that screens will be an integral part of their learning lives. I’m 0% certain, however, that the parenting decisions I’m making today to try to influence that outcome will be successful.

But here’s the thing; if we’re not feeling at least a healthy dose of angst around our kids’ use of technology, I wonder how successful our parenting can be. Regardless our comfort level, screens represent big “C” CHANGE, in how we create, how we communicate, how we connect, and a whole bunch of other ways that we’re just starting to figure out. The more we share, both onscreen and off, our own attempts as parents to make sense of that change for our kids, the better off we’ll all be.

So, I’m wondering, how are you parenting around the influx of screens in your kids’ lives?



Distracted Parenting: Time to Put Down the Tech?

Texting while driving…talking on the phone at dinner…playing video games at all hours of the day and night. Sound familiar? And our kids do all that stuff too. But what signals do adults send when they engage in those behaviors? This piece by Sierra Filucci in Common Sense Media really hit home: Texting While Parenting: Can it Wait? Apparently for some, it can’t.

Like for instance Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, who on a panel at the SXSW conference last week made this telling comment which stunned the crowd: “Kids are awesome, you guys should all have kids…I don’t see mine enough actually. What I find is I’m able to be with them and still be on e-mail. I can be with them and still be working at the same time.”

Ok, then.

How are you being a role model, good or bad, with your tech use? Discuss below.

Keeping Up With the Smartphones

Probably the best research you’ll find about teens and technology use comes from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and their just released survey of Teens and Technology has some interesting results. Can you guess which group of 14-17 year olds, girls or boys, are most likely to use their cell phones to go online? And, while 95% of teens in the US go online, what percentage of 50-64 year olds do?

Wherever you are, the world is becoming more and more of a connected place. We’d love to hear what those connections look like in your lives.