Parenting in a Digital World

Which one do you want daddy?

Take a moment to think about how many digital devices you have in your home. It may sound something like this: two LCD TVs, an iPad, three smartphones, a laptop and maybe an Xbox. Technology has become such a big part of our lives, it’s easy to forget just how ever-present it is. It’s here to stay, and it’s everywhere. Just the other day I saw that Subway has switched to touchscreen fountain pop dispensers!

It seems our world is becoming increasingly digitized, so it’s understandable that children are being exposed to it at an earlier age. On top of that, parents want the best for their children and are sometimes led to believe this means having access to digital devices. It’s true; we do need to know how to use technology in today’s world—but we also need to remember it is just one “tool in the toolbox;” it’s not everything, and it’s not even the most important thing.

We know through research on brain development that learning happens in relationships through one-on-one interaction. We also know it’s not realistic for most families to totally remove technology from our homes. But what we can do is be mindful about how and when we use it by remembering this acronym: ORIM.

What does ORIM stand for?

Opportunity
Recognition
Interaction
Modelling

  • Is there an Opportunity to turn this into a learning experience? Learning takes place through interaction: talking, singing, rhymes, stories, and positive feedback.
  • Is there a way to Recognize and value your child and their efforts? This builds confidence and self-esteem. Is there a way to recognize when your child has made progress?
  • Does this activity have room for Interaction? Brain development takes place through “serve and return”—healthy back-and-forth communication.
  • Children absorb the behaviours and attitudes of the people they spend the most time with. Does the way you use technology Model a positive attitude about learning?

In short, since learning occurs within the relationship between child and caregiver, and through “serve and return interaction,” nothing compares to hands-on activities done with a real human. That said, family literacy is about making the most of your everyday activities, and for a lot of families those activities include digital technology. Think of ways you can add value to these experiences!

Try these:

  • Turn closed captioning on when watching TV.
  • Use your smartphone camera together to capture items on a scavenger hunt.
  • When playing games on a tablet, make it truly interactive by talking about what’s happening and asking questions.

Digital technology has its place, but it’s important to unplug and have boundaries. Try “tech time-outs” for the whole family!

On that note, I’ll leave you with this quote from Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd. It’s a parody of the classic book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, and is a great story to read together as a way to transition into your “tech time-outs:”

“Goodnight remotes and Netflix streams, Androids, apps and glowing screens. Goodnight MacBook Air, goodnight gadgets everywhere.”

Digital Technology is one of the topics we cover in our Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Parent Workshops. If your organization would like more information about hosting us, please contact the Centre for Family Literacy at 780-421-7323, or check our website

Download the free Flit app for literacy activities to do with your children 0-5 years old! Here’s the link to iTunes to download.

 

Digital Technology

technology

“…New digital technologies have entered every aspect of our reality, including families and the lives of young people. They have already affected preschool children’s play and learning as well.”

UNESCO (2010)

I recently did a presentation on technology at the Alberta Early Years conference. I opened the session with a confession – I am not a technology expert and I have been a reluctant user of new technologies.

However, as the above quote from UNESCO states, technology is in every aspect of our lives. Families are using technology, and in family literacy we work with the strengths and tools that families are bringing. So the debate is no longer “do we use it,” it is “how do we use it.”

Major studies (“Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers” – Kaiser Family Foundation Report – 2006, American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Paediatric Society) have advised that 0-2 year olds should not have any “screen time” at all and it should be limited for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

In my session, we discussed the research versus the reality. Like anything, there has to be balance – between the use of technology (by both parents and children) and meaningful interactions (that promote positive family relationships and healthy development). I challenged participants to pick their favourite app, perhaps one they thought families would be using at home, and answer the following questions:

  1. Why are we using this technology or app? Is it for fun, for learning, or for some other purpose?
  1. What kind of time is being spent with it? Is it high quality and interactive (e.g. can we use the technology as we would use a board game) or is it time being spent alone?
  1. Is what we are doing developmentally appropriate for children?
  1. Do we have guidelines/rules about when and how long it’s used (for parents and children)? Do you have technology-free zones or times?
  1. What are we modelling? What are our children and families seeing?

There’s no “right” answer to any of these questions, but perhaps they can help us think more critically about our use of technology, both personally and professionally.

Ending the session, we talked about how it can be a challenge to start the discussion about technology use. Here are some great books that could help break the ice. Enjoy them and have fun as you explore how you are using technology!

Goodnight IPad by Ann Droyd

Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell