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.