This is the second of a five-post series on parenting in the digital age. As the mom of an elementary school student, and the Director of Academic Technology in an elementary & middle school, I am always balancing my passion for edtech and my philosophy on parenting. These posts discuss the roles I play when considering technology and apps in our home.
Want to read more? Check out the rest of the series:
EdTech & Parenting: An Introduction
EdTech & Parenting Part 1: The Homemaker
EdTech & Parenting Part 2: The Curator
EdTech & Parenting Part 3: The Digital Citizen
EdTech & Parenting Part 4: The Enforcer of Rules
EdTech & Parenting Part 5: The Cheerleader
When I think about my daughter being exposed to online media, it quickly becomes overwhelming – even scary. From sensationalized stories, to the even scarier true stories that exist in newsfeeds, on television, and in advertisements. How do I manage a digital experience that keeps iPad time both safe and educational? I find it helps to think like a museum curator, compiling pieces of the digital world for our own viewing that promote being smart, kind, and comfortable with the digital world.
My goal is to curate a digital experience for my child that is safe, appropriate, and educational. My indicators are: 1) research new apps, resources, and digital tools; 2) utilize privacy and sharing controls; 3) develop an understanding of social media; 4) help my child curate her own safe digital experience.
Research new apps, resources, and digital tools.
Because I control the passwords on all of our devices, my daughter rarely uses an app or digital tool that I haven’t seen. When I come across an unknown, there are a number of resources I can go to for information:
- Common Sense Media Ratings reviews all types of media. On their site, you can find:
- written reviews;
- sub-ratings on a wide range topics, from “Positive Messages” to “Violence” and everything in between;
- star ratings from parents and kids;
- family talking points;
- and related educational subjects or skills.
- Apps in the iTunes Store and Google Play Store have descriptions and reviews attached to them.
- CNET and PCMag, among other online sites, are always reviewing devices and digital tools.
- Educators who work with academic technology (like me!) can also be a resource, and more often than not, we are happy to help.
When assessing a new app, I typically look for violent or mature material, educational value, and major themes. Two general house rules: I stay away from mainstream media outlets, and streaming video sites are either blocked, or are a firm “No” unless I am present.
The news media is a little more difficult to control. So unless absolutely necessary, I try not to watch the news when M is around. We have talked about why some news is fake, how advertisements can be tricky, and news that isn’t “fake” probably doesn’t happen everyday either. Google’s Be Internet Awesome
is a great game that helps teach digital literacy – both parents and kids should play it!
Utilize privacy and sharing controls.
You read about it in my last post, and you’ll read about it in my next post: Passwords are for Parents! With control of the passwords, I decide which apps are on our devices, I can encourage positive influences, and I can block unfriendly websites or material. I block followers very liberally.
Develop an understanding of social media.
My daughter is only 5 years old, but she knows what Facebook
is. We use it to post pictures and follow our friends & family (including Great-Grandmother!), so we can all share what we are up to. M is aware of my Twitter
account, but has very little interest. I have Instagram
accounts, although I don’t use them much. But M loves playing with filters on her Uncle’s SnapChat. I also maintain Google+
, and LinkedIn
, though I do not use them all on a regular basis. I’ve also explored Vimeo
, and Flickr
Why do I have so many social media accounts, especially if I’m not using them all consistently or my daughter isn’t interested? Because social media is an incredibly strong force in our society, and I believe it is important to understand how it works. And when my daughter becomes interested, I want to be educated and fully understand which experiences are right, or not right, for our family.
Important things to remember when your child is using social media:
- Passwords are for Parents! Don’t want your child using an account? Just log out. Want to see what your child is up to online? Just log in.
- You can block almost anyone or anything. By blocking unfriendly users, I am curating a positive social media experience for my child.
- It’s ok to say no. If you’ve done your homework and decided that your child isn’t ready for social media, then say no.
Help my child curate her own safe digital experience.
By controlling the passwords, I have established certain habits for my daughter. Before loading an app, she has to ask me first. If my answer is no, I try to explain why – “that app is expensive” or “that app has guns in it,” etc. These explanations are helping M learn what questions to ask when looking at a new app. Now, when she asks for an app, she says, “Can you download this one? It’s free and about cake making.”
We also have conversations about the news. We talk about how to tell if something is fake news, an advertisement, or sensationalized. Sensationalized stories are the most difficult – “yes, [event] happened, but it almost never does and that’s why it’s on the news.”
As I mentioned above, Google’s Be Internet Awesome
is also a great way to encourage digital literacy and citizenship skills. As Google’s graphic (right) suggests, the game encourages kids to be Smart, Alert, Strong, Kind, and Brave. M’s a little young for manipulating the game controls, but I’ve been playing the game with her and helping her think through the questions. It’s made for some great conversations about digital literacy and citizenship.
Each home will have its own rules about the digital experience. And at our house, we modify the rules as technology changes, and as my daughter grows. I try to keep these four indicators – research, privacy, digital literacy, and social media – in mind when curating a digital experience that is safe and educational for my family.Comment below: how do you curate your family’s digital experience?