As children begin to “plug back in” to complete summer packets, Diane Ferber, the Director of The Collaborative Center for Learning and Development at Greenwich Education Group, offers some useful suggestions for managing your child’s technology. Technology provides our children with information, opportunities, educational and social reach, and advancements that are unprecedented; but with these tangible benefits come fears of inherent dangers of misuse, exposure and withdrawal.
Immediate and Extensive Availability of Information
We, and our children, have ready access to opinion, research, text, media, entertainment, opportunities to interact with others, and a global view. For most people, technology has radically changed the way we socialize and network. Businesses and individuals can interact, cooperate and exchange ideas with a global, heterogeneous and multi-faceted community.
While we integrate technology in many positive ways…
Interactive classroom technology (smartboards, iPads, computers)
Increased, immediate communication between schools and parents
Teacher/student communication, work submission, virtual classroom communities
Convenient and immediate scientific and factual inquiry
...education has just started to recognize the shift in content that must occur, so that our students learn to evaluate sources, synthesize and critically assess large amounts of information, and emphasize strategic analysis and thinking over memorization. The payoff for all of this is potentially better decisions and more choices, and a rate of advancement that we can only imagine.
Too much time on computer/personal technologies can:
Hinder socialization with peers and family
Foster inactivity, encourage poor food habits
Create multitasking overload
Impact sleeping patterns
Encourage isolation and withdrawal in vulnerable children
Unguided use of technology can create problems for our children:
Sites, reference points, and influences inappropriate for their level of development
Potential for bullying, inappropriate social interaction
Safety concerns and release of personal information
Public exposure of developmentally appropriate social mistakes (e.g., inappropriate language, jokes, emerging social skills)
Make online time healthy and safe:
Limit entertainment (vs. homework) online time, including video games, computer, internet
Place computer in a public, visible location in your home (e.g., not in a bedroom, basement)
Set up user ID for child that has limited privileges (e.g., adult content filters, access times)
Bookmark favorite sites to avoid risks of inadvertent typing access to inappropriate sites
Set up games/sites for children, with desired privacy and limitation settings already in place
Have a “privacy” conversation
Empower children to help keep themselves safe. And, just as in the rest of their lives, they should tell you if they need help or a friend is having trouble and needs help. Early presentation of rules and reasons for children is important.
Never give your name, address, school or friend’s name or Password(s)
Never pretend to be someone you aren’t, or assume everyone is truthful
Never say hurtful or mean things online; same kindness rules apply as offline
Instruct your children on how to block people
Instruct your children to inform you if a site requests personal information (The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits sites from knowingly collecting information from children under 13 without our consent.)
Normalize computer time:
Talk about computers and technology as tools (e.g., not as something “bad”)
Incorporate technology into a discussion on balance (e.g., 2 hrs. on computer, 2 hrs. on sports).
Use the computer/play games with your child, the way you would read with them, to model critical thinking, turn taking etiquette, and safety
Discuss your feelings and opinions about content and choices
Ask your children to show you what they like to play and do (e.g., become familiar with their pastimes and friends, as you do offline!)
The Internet permeates every part of our lives. As parents, it is critical that we teach our children its capabilities as well as how to use it safely and productively.