Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is a digital device on your kids gift list? How to handle growing up social.

It's that time of year when our kids are shouting from the other room when the commercials come on "Mom, I want this!"

It is the time we begin to organize our Christmas lists and prep for a big week of sales, Monday before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Tech Tuesday! Phew!

I've been putting careful consideration into what I get our kids this year. I am concerned that they don't get enough active play, so I want them to get something that encourages movement. I want to encourage hobbies. I want to get them reading print! (Book/print reading, as opposed to reading on a digital reader promotes focus and creativity, it is calming and relaxing and is linked to increased intelligence and brain activity.) And then there is this issue of technology. 

At our home my husband, teen, and I have smart phones and I have an iPad. Increasingly, my four and six year olds are taking over our devices! Now filled with their apps, my storage is low, the power is always running low and they are sticky (if I can get a hold of one). I believe that technology has a lot of positive benefits. I can see it in my son, who has Down syndrome. He is a visual learner and these apps have helped him learn words and colors. But research shows that too much time can actually be detrimental to brain development. Not to mention other dangers involved with social media I must consider for my teen. 

I recently read this post pointing out that as GenX parents, we are the first to face this parenting dilemma and straddle the divide between traditional media consumers and digital natives. So what are we to do? How do we handle this territory that is relatively untested? How will our decisions impact our kids' futures?

I've considered getting each their own devices this year. Nabi has child friendly tablets with great parental controls such as time limits, Internet blocking, etc. They even have versions for ages 4-6, 6-12 and teens at reasonable prices between $99-$200. But how to make sure I put the right controls in place to reap the benefits and limit the negatives?

Fortunately, I have a guide. Dr Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane have written a guide for us called Growing Up Social. In Growing Up Social, Chapman and Pellicane acknowledge that we all want to equip our children to show affection, appreciate others, deal with anger, learn to apologize, and pay attention. Through research and stories, they illustrate how screen time can affect our ability to equip our children in these areas and give us strategies to work around the negative aspects of screen time, such as:

  • Reduced attention span
  • The need for instant gratification
  • Lack of patience
  • Overstimulation
  • Not able to relax
  • Sleep issues
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of empathy
Growing Up Social addresses how the digital world has affected the A+ skills of affection, appreciation, anger management, apology and attention and provides solutions for ensuring these skills are taught and embraced. The book also addresses the affects of screen time and brain development, shyness, security, parental authority, single parenting and us! The authors point out obstacles and challenges and provide sound advice. The authors are not preachy and fully accept the fact that the digital world is here to stay. They want us to be aware of the affects and consequence and have tools and skills to work around these to provide a right balance for our families.

So, I will likely go ahead and get these devices for our kids fully using the time limit features. I plan to set up a system to earn screen time and to lay a few ground rules:
  • Must read printed words for at least 20 minutes before screen time
  • Must have active play for 40-60 minutes per day
  • No screens while doing homework, unless needed for research
  • No screens during meals
  • Screen time daily limits according to age
  • Devices must be checked in and out by parents in order to use
  • Teen phone must be on charger upstairs by 9 p.m. each night
  • App purchases must be pre-approved
  • Must have all usernames and passwords
  • Teen must review and sign agreement to social conduct/safety standards
  • People first, tech second
In the people first, technology second arena, we will make sure that face time takes precedence in the areas of affection, appreciation, anger management, apology and attention. If you are concerned with how screen time can affect your kids and your family and what you can do to minimize the negative affects, pick up a copy of Growing Up Social, or comment with your family tech tips/guidelines below for a chance to win your own copy!

Disclosure: I was given a copy of the book by the publisher for an honest review.