NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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New digital devices?

digital devices

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

There is no doubt that gaming systems, phones, and tablets were aplenty under the tree this year. Now that many children have their own device, how do you make sure to set them up for success?

Many parents greet new devices with equal parts excitement and dread. No matter your feelings, these moments present a window of opportunity for you to step in as an influential media mentor in your child’s life.

Transitions are often the best times for our brains to start and practice new habits. Kids tend to be more open to conversations and negotiation with us as part of gaining access to the new tools they have been yearning for.

This means that as our kids excitedly hold these powerful tools in their hands, the next best gift we can give them is our coaching, teaching and guidance. So where do we start?

Reflect on your goals, and learn from your child. There are all kinds of good reasons to get new devices and new games including learning, connecting, and creating, but every device comes with its own set of risks and responsibilities. Remember your decision doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You might decide to have a family cell phone that your child accesses before allowing them a device of their own. Be sure you’ve thought through the pros and cons before diving in.

Researchers argue that making family plans around screen time that focus only on minutes and limits risks positioning parents as simply time-keepers and “enforcers” rather than media mentors. Instead, research suggests that managing and supporting your child’s media use around the “3 Cs” can shift that dynamic and shape better outcomes:

Contexts. When, where, and how will your child use the device?

Content. What will they consume, watch, and engage with?

Connections. How will you make sure that device use doesn’t get in the way of relationships and connections – both offline and online?

Decide which boundaries are going to be negotiable and which you will decide with your child. For example, you might determine that a tech curfew is non-negotiable but be willing to learn more about a new app or game together with your child before you decide if it is appropriate. Use Common Sense Media to find ratings and reviews and don’t be afraid to use apps and tools to help manage screen time together.

After you’ve had the device for a while, take the time to check in on how things are going. Rather than basing your family media plan on arbitrary rules or what other families are doing, reflect and adjust as necessary.

As kids get older they may be less thrilled to sit down with you to talk about their tech use. Don’t let this stop you. In the long run, engaging your child and co-creating expectations with them will have a longer and more powerful impact on their lives than any of the latest devices ever could.

Source: Erin Walsh, Co-founder Spark & Stitch Institute!

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