Are you raising a digital native? If you’re parenting in the digital age, I’m sure you are!
Through the years I’ve often referred to my students, and my own children as “digital natives”. People outside of the EdTech space often seem puzzled by my use of this term. It’s a term I first encountered some years ago when participating in one of my first technology for education college course.
The term “digital native” was first introduced in 2001 by Marc Prensky , an American writer and speaker on education, who used it to describe a generation of students that are growing up surrounded by new technology — computers, video games, cell phones, digital music players, video cameras, and a long list of other digital toys and tools that make up today’s digital landscape. You can read more about it here.
Raising Digital Natives
Life for kids and parents alike is nothing like what it was when I was growing up. I didn’t encounter a computer until I was at the end of my high school journey. My parents didn’t worry about social media and digital footprints. Can you relate?
Kids today are born with all kinds of tech at their fingertips. And as parents, we can become easily overwhelmed by all the new tech popping up around us. It’s something our kids may know how to use seamlessly, even at a very young age. But for us adults, it may not come as easy. And knowing how to guide our kids in today’s digital world can be an even bigger challenge. For this reason, I was excited to hear about Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World, a new book written by Devorah Heitner.
Devorah Heitner is the founder of Raising Digital Natives, a great resource for families and organizations seeking to cultivate a culture of thoughtful digital citizenship. I encourage you to check out her website and blog and use it as your resource for parenting in the digital age.
Devorah holds a Ph.D in Media, Technology, and Society from Northwestern University. She’s a mom, public speaker, and author. Her new book titled Screenwise, is currently at the top in Amazon’s Parent Participation in Education Hot New Releases. Way to go Devorah! This is such an important resource for parents and educators alike. Let me tell you why.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Screenwise in order to facilitate this book review. No monetary compensation was received for sharing this with you. As always, thoughts and opinions are always my own and I only share what I love and think you will too! Amazon affiliate links are included in this post and I may receive a small commission for your purchase, without it changing the price you pay. Thanks for supporting NYCTechMommy.
A Must-Have Practical Guide for Parenting in the Digital Age
I recently finished reading Screenwise and found so much value in all the guidance Devorah had to share with parents raising digital natives. Devorah empowers parents, without guilt, and guides them on how to become media mentors by sharing her extensive experience and thoughtful tips. It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent that considers yourself up on the tech (like I do) or one that feels completely overwhelmed and lost in today’s ever-changing digital landscape. I guarantee you that this practical parenting guide will speak to you, no matter where you may fall.
Now if you’re one of my regular readers you know I’m pretty comfortable with my family’s digital lifestyle. I don’t shy away from my kids using technology, I actually encourage it. I see so many benefits to its use, with proper structures in place, of course. I find that my children thrive with its use, from my toddler using education apps to learn her alphabet before even turning two, to my 8-year-old exploring STEM topics through Minecraft. I’m completely open to my family’s media use.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain areas that aren’t scary for me to think about. Or that I don’t worry about how I’ll tackle certain situations that will come up with my kids’ media use as they get older. That’s why I think Screenwise is a must-have practical guide for parenting in the digital age. It really doesn’t matter how tech-savvy you are!
I found loads of thought provoking tips in this book. And I plan on taking immediate action on them, from doing a better job at modeling empathy to creating attractive unplugged zones around our home, just to name a couple. I love how this book empowers parents without guilt or shaming. It simply provides thoughtful and practical approaches to help you better communicate with your kids about their tech use, while fostering good tech habits for the entire family.
A Must-Have for Educators Too!
I feel this is a fantastic resource for educators too! As an educator myself I’m often approached by parents with questions about their child’s media use. I love that I now have a practical and easy to read guide that I can suggest to parents.
The wealth of thoughtful tips in this book can help teachers and schools guide and support parents as they navigate their family’s digital lifestyles, while also fostering a sound digital-age school life, and helping to raise awareness about digital citizenship. I highly recommend that schools keep a few copies of Screenwise on their parent lending library shelves.
As Devorah mentions in her section titled ‘It Takes a Village’, “If you feel completely ill equipped to dive into the social media or gaming sandbox with your child, you can try recruiting some help”. Having a guide such as this available for parents within their school communities will not only help them find the support they may be seeking but it can also help spark conversations around digital lifestyle topics within our school communities. I really do believe it takes a village, especially when helping our kids (and parents) thrive in our digital world.
Devorah Heitner, Ph.D., is the author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. She is also the founder of Raising Digital Natives, which helps parents, schools, and kids grow a culture of positive digital citizenship.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Devorah to get her perspective on topics that are important to me as a parent. It’s my hope that this interview will also help address some of the concerns you may have as a parent or educator yourself. It’s a true honor to share Devorah’s thoughts with you and I hope that you’ll find as much value in her words and wisdom, as I did.
NYC Tech Mommy: Your new book, Screenwise is all about helping us better understand what it’s like to be a digital native — a kid growing in today’s digital-age. You share great insight into how we can help our kids thrive and survive in the digital world. Most importantly you share practical tips to help parents of digital natives survive. It’s not easy for many of us who didn’t grow up in such a fast paced digital world to keep up, especially when we’re also navigating parenting.
I find that in today’s digital world, many parents worry that their kids are becoming completely addicted, detached and/or distracted by their devices. What’s your best piece of advice for parents who may be currently struggling with these feelings about their kid’s tech use?
Devorah Heitner: Look at your child’s friendships, family relationships, relationships with teachers. Do they have empathy? Are they connected? Just because your kid loves to text or post to Instagram doesn’t mean he isn’t also loving his in-person friend time. If you have deeper concerns about your child’s social skills, is tech to blame or is it more of a symptom? Could a game or tech interest like programming bring your child into contact with some positive friends and peers? When can they put devices away to minimize distraction? They may be able to come up with ideas about this (with some help.)
NYC Tech Mommy: Chapter 6 of your book discusses ‘Family Life in the Digital Age’. Many parents will probably agree that today’s constant connectivity can be distracting and may put a strain on family life. What are some strategies parents can implement to maintain a healthy home environment and foster good tech habits for all family members, parents included?
Devorah Heitner: Plan for certain times that are unplugged (like mealtimes) and other times where tech is something the family can enjoy together. Be open to hearing your child share with you the tech habits of yours he doesn’t like, and make sure you are all open to working together to co-create solutions to challenges, and fun traditions like family Pokemon Go time or movie night, or YouTube cooking Challenge!
NYC Tech Mommy: In Chapter 6 you also discuss the use of cell phones and knowing when is the appropriate time for your child to have their own. My son will be turning nine soon. Many of his classmates already have their own phones and I’m sure he’ll be asking for one soon enough. Although I didn’t hesitate to get him his own iPad at the age of 3, I’m not sure I’m ready to purchase a cell phone for him at the age of 9. There are so many things to consider before agreeing to a cell phone. It’s also scary to think that I may be giving up on some of that control I still have over his media use. What are some things you encourage parents to consider before agreeing to make that all important, right of passage, phone purchase? Do you have some quick tips that can help guide parents like myself?
Devorah Heitner: This is not the time to buy impulsively. Both parents should be on the same page. If your child is asking for a phone what does he want it for? (Music? Web surfing? Games? Apps? Because his friends have one? All of the above?) Ask yourself if he’s likely to lose it, break it, etc. Will you replace it if something happens to it? What family interests can this new device support and encourage? I suggest having a meeting with your child before he gets this new device. Are there times when it will be off-limits? What apps will be allowed? What will be the consequences for misuse? You may want to keep it in your own room overnight so it doesn’t interfere with sleep. Has this child shown good decision making and maturity with other forms of communication? Are they impulsive or reactive in social situations? Think carefully before handing over a device that could put your child into the middle of social situations he or she may not be ready for.
NYC Tech Mommy: And finally, I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy parent. Still, keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of the digital world we live in can be challenging and overwhelming, to say the least. Chapter 3 of your book addressed many of these concerns for parents and discusses the importance of assessing our own digital literacy. Can you share with us a bit of your perspective on why it’s important for us as parents to assess our own digital literacy and how this can help our families better thrive in today’s digital world?
Devorah Heitner: Many parents with whom I work with feel behind the curve when it comes to technology. Let’s face it, kids almost always know about the latest trends in technology and social media before their parents do. That’s okay. The big thing to remember is that adults have more social wisdom than their children, even though children are digitally savvy. This wisdom is immensely valuable, and should not be underestimated. Why does your child want to text? What is behind her impulse to use a social app? Are there other ways to have some of that connection? What about starting an account together?
It isn’t surprising that parents are often confused when they try to decide what kinds of technology play a positive role in their kids’ lives. Not only is keeping up with all the new apps and games difficult, but everyone from grandparents to teachers to other parents may offer a different, and sometimes unsolicited, perspective. These mixed messages are often laden with guilt.
I am all about mentorship. I strongly believe that this is the best way to prepare your kids for their online—and offline—future. Helping them make good decisions is a better and more effective strategy than trying to protect them from everything that is out there. But being an effective mentor in the digital age means that you need to engage with kids’ technology. You need to play what your kids play and lead them into screen engagements that emphasize creativity over consumption. You’ll be ready to defeat your whole office in Clash of Clans or Agar.io! Or you may find that video games are hard, and you’ll gain a new appreciation for your child’s talent.
Diving into your children’s pursuits will illustrate that not all screen time is equal. Finding your own mentors will be crucial. Is there a person in your social circle, or family who is an avid gamer and might be able to help you understand the different modes of Minecraft? Or help you decipher Pokemon Go or Muscal.ly?
NYCTechMommy: Thank you Devorah for all your insight! I’ve taken note and will definitely apply many of your thoughtful suggestions.
It was a real pleasure chatting with Devorah! I find her work necessary, insightful, and thoughtful. And I’m so thankful she’s here to guide parents on how to mentor their kids through the challenges of the ever-changing digital world we live in.
To learn even more on how to better equip myself to become a media mentor to my own kids and foster a sound digital lifestyle for my family, I took the ‘How Screenwise Are You?’ quiz. After taking it I received some great insight into my own tech use and how I can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. I even received some actionable tips that will help me better mentor my kid in his own tech use. I encourage you to the quiz too! Click here.
And don’t forget to get your own copy of Screenwise. Click here.
Want to hear even more of Devorah’s perspective on the challenges of raising digital natives? Check out her TEDx Talk below.
And before you go, don’t forget to share this article with your friends on social media! Remember, it takes a village! You never know if another parent out there is in need of sound advice to empower them in parenting in the digital age. Share this knowledge today and help a mom or dad find the support they need to raise well-rounded digital natives. I’m sure we can all agree, parenting in today’s digital world isn’t easy!
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