As parents, how do you stay relevant in the digital age and how do you deal with your kids’ constant consumption of digital media?
Yalda T. Uhls, MBA, PhD, is an author and Executive of Common Sense Media, the leading non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. She points out that the media landscape has changed and children today constantly use media. Therefore, it’s really important for parents, educators, and anyone who is concerned with youth development to understand how media impacts and affects children and to stay on top of social media themselves.
In her new book Media Moms & Digital Dads: A Fact, Not Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age, Yalda discusses the importance, though difficulty, of parents to stay up to speed with their children when it comes new and ever-changing technology.
“This book touches on everything parents should know about the digital age. As a mother of three I’m constantly thinking about how I can keep up with my kids on social media and how I can help them be good digital citizens, says CEO of Kids in the House, Leana Greene.
Understanding the pros and cons of digital media is half the battle of keeping up with it. Pros of the online community for children include the ability for kids to express themselves and communicate with likeminded children and find a sense of belonging. New research from Uhls’ book also shows that boys who played violet games smoked less pot than those who did not and playing video games has actually proven to have some learning benefits and can be correlated with academic achievement. “When kids play video games, there are things all over the screen, there is hand/eye co-ordination, and there is a great learning between what they see and spatial representation, and the way that things are manipulated on the screen,” says Uhls.
Cons of the consumption of digital media at a young age mostly involve too much technology. One study in Uhls’ book highlights mothers who use a mobile device while feeding their six-year old children. During the meal, 23% of the mothers pulled out their phones. Those who did ended up speaking 20% less to their kids and having 40% fewer non-verbal interactions, thereby missing important emotional cues from their children.
(Watch a Kids in the House hilarious comedy sketch #BLESSED Mom by clicking here)
While the pros and cons of technology on youth are highly discussed and debated, what is undeniable is the fact that technology is more prevalent now than ever before from social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Vine to online dating apps like OkCupid, Tinder, and Bumble. So what are parents to do? What Uhls encourages moms and dads do is to join the digital world and to “become Media Moms and Digital Dads.” Learning social media will help parents help their children navigate the digital world safely. At the same time, parents also need to encourage tech-free time. “In order for children to best learn social and emotional skills, in‐person human interaction is essential,” Uhls writes in her book. It is all about finding balance.
“It is time to do our best to adapt so that we can guide children using our considerable knowledge of the world, an advantage we sometimes underestimate. Remember, kids may know media, but we know life, ” Uhls says.
As far as practical steps that parents can take to deal with their children’s consumption of media, here are Kids in the House and Yalda T. Uhls’ takeaways!
- Get involved in social media as a parent so you can learn the ins and outs!
- Spend tech-free time with your kids to build interpersonal skills and limit the hours spent watching TV and on the Internet
- Make sure your children are exposed to age appropriate material so they can stay safe on the Internet
- Advocate for teaching digital citizenship in the classroom! Technology is being used more in schools, so courses on digital responsibility will ensure a clean digital footprint.
To learn more about being a parent in a digital age check out kidsinthehouse.com and see more of Yalda T. Uhl's videos here