Family Online Safety Institute—Good Digital Parenting
In her blog posted on March 12, Diana Graber, Co-Founder of Cyberwise, starts by referencing a NY Times article on the trend by employees of companies such as Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard and others, to send their children to Waldorf schools where there is, “Not a computer to be found. No screens at all.”
- She then goes on to outline current research (cf. Keeping in Touch February 2015 “Ongoing Debate Over Screen Time Use With Infants and Toddlers”).
- “Since 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended no screen time at all for children under 2 because they believed there were more potential negative effects than positive effects of media exposure. Newer data bears this out, and the AAP stands by its recommendation.”
- “Updated guidelines from the AAP recommend no more than two hours per day of any type of entertainment screen time for kids ages 3 to 18.” Despite criticism that this is unrealistic given current dependence on technology, “the AAP points to several long-term studies indicating that over two hours per day of media use leads to a host of ill-effects for children and teens, such as a higher risk for obesity, a drop in school performance, increased aggression, emotional and family problems, and more.”
- “Research is also confirming that technology can get in the way of the development of ‘social cognition’ or the skills needed to be aware of one’s own mental state as well as the state of others.
She includes a summary of “Slow Tech” guidelines developed by longtime Waldorf educator and teacher mentor Patti Connolly for children 0 – 14. For infants, toddlers and preschoolers the guidelines include:
- 0-2 years—your child needs:
- To explore, learn to trust, and engage in joint attention with you.
- Parent(s) should put away computers and tablets when with their child.
- 3-6 years—your child needs:
- Uninterrupted time engaging in old-fashioned play (i.e. dress up, active outside play), playing with toys that require a “stick-to-it”-ness, exploring nature, listening to you read and tell stories.
- Strict limits on passive screen time (of educational programs with you co-viewing).
- An introduction to how to participate with tech devices in a very limited, positive way by engaging in activities with your child, such as emailing grandparents with child dictating (using technology like Kids Email that can keep this experience safe and protected).
The Family Online Safety Institute also offers a downloadable interactive poster, 7 Steps to Good Digital Parenting. Amongst other tips, the tool recommends that parents be a good digital role model to their children. Suggestions include:
- Know when to unplug yourself
- Show your kids how to collaborate and create online
- Curb your own bad digital habits: The Institute offers suggestions for parents to help them model good online behaviour to their children, such as:
- Check yourself: take a few minutes to google yourself online. “Is what you find an accurate reflection of the person you are, or the person you want presented to the world?” They offer a checklist with tips on how to clean up your digital footprint.
- Keep it classy: Remember, what you post online is there for the whole world (including your children) to see.
- Stay positive: “ If you see something on your Facebook or Twitter feed that you disagree with, you don’t necessarily need to engage… Simply, remove the item from your feed and move on.”
- Take Arguments Offline: “If you are angry or upset with someone, don’t use social media, text or email to communicate. This can easily escalate the conflict. Resolve to pick up the phone or discuss any disagreements face to face. Then teach your kids to do the same.”
- Stand Up to Cyberbullies: “If you see someone behaving badly online, call him or her out. “. Warn your children about online ‘strangers’ the same way you would about letting people into your home
- When in Doubt, Don’t Share: If you are unsure, it is best not to post, including posting pictures of friends or family members without first asking their permission. “Anything that gives you pause, or that you feel may be embarrassing to someone is best kept private.”
- Do Good With Tech: “Find a way to use technology to support your favourite charity or a cause you feel strongly about.”
- Learn Parental Controls: When buying new devices, “take the time to learn about the parental controls and settings to keep your family as safe as possible when connecting online.”
- Master a New App: The guide recommends learning to use your child’s favourite apps yourself. This is a way of encouraging interaction and talk between you and your child.
- Unplug: The guide recommends that “There is a time and a place for everything. Resolve to put your phone down and disconnect in order to fully engage with the people closest to you.”
Even sites that recommend media choices for children will often acknowledge that kindergarten readiness is more about ‘soft skills’, stressing valuable school-readiness skills such as the following:
- Encourage a love of learning. “While kindergarten may be your immediate focus, you're really laying the foundation for lifelong learning. It's more important for your child to enjoy learning than to master facts and figures. Nurture curiosity, encourage questions, support critical thinking, and model being a learner yourself. ”
- Help your kindergartner get along well with others. “Much of school -- and life -- involves relating to and working with those around you. Kids who can share, play well with peers, and resolve conflicts are starting the game ahead. ”
- Support self-control and planning skills. “Young kids are just beginning to learn crucial self-regulation and executive functioning skills. Child development experts call this internal ‘air traffic control’ -- and it's key to success in school. Even kindergartners have to manage a lot of information, avoid distractions, and carry out plans. Help your kid practice remembering a sequence (after breakfast, we brush our teeth, put our shoes on, and go to school), curbing impulses (grabbing other kids' toys), and adapting when things don't go as planned. ”
- Talk and read … a lot. “One of the strongest predictors of later success in reading and other school subjects is early vocabulary -- and oral language skills in general. Talk to your kids, use challenging words, describe what they mean, read to them, play word games, make up nonsense rhymes and stories together, teach listening skills, listen to them, sing songs -- anything that emphasizes language.
- Boost independence. “Kindergarten is a big transition into a world of strange adults and peers, especially if your kid hasn't had much preschool experience. But there's lots you can do at home to set the stage: Teach kids to fetch and put away their things and to carry out basic routines independently.”
- When checking out sites online that recommend media for children, a wise precaution is to check their background information and FAQs at the bottom of the home page to see who is sponsoring the site or whether the site has links to companies that are producing apps and other media content for children, either directly, or by using advisors who are employed by media companies.