Helping Children Navigate the Digital Age

Posted on: Tue, 11/06/2018 - 09:00

Smart phones are a common part of everyone’s life—the power of a computer at your fingertips. These and other mobile devices can make things easier for us, but in reality, they can also make things worse.

Recently, I heard a morning radio personality pose this question for listeners, "Would you rather give up your smart phone or your little toe?" I was not surprised to hear most respondents offer up their little toes. We have truly become dependent on our smart phones, mobile devices, and computers. What impact is this dependency having on children?

The PTA Council of Frederick County recently sponsored a presentation by Dr. Richard Freed, author of Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age. As a child and adolescent psychologist, Dr. Freed candidly described the impact of social media and video games on children. He also offered valuable advice for parents in helping children use technology appropriately.

Several compelling points shared by Dr. Freed that are worth further discussion and consideration:

  • Marketing strategies have effectively made parents believe video games, apps, and other technology benefit children. This marketing known as "mobilize tech optimism" is highly effective; recent polls found that 77% of American and British parents believe that tablet computers benefit children.
  • The average time spent on entertainment media is startling. Teens spend an average of 9 hours per day and “tweens” (ages 8-12) spend an average of 6 hours. This does not include time spent on computers in school or for homework.
  • Video games and social media sites employ techniques that draw users back repeatedly, and can ultimately lead to addiction. The rates of technology addiction range from about 7% to 11% of teen and young adult gamers.
  • A group of psychologists is questioning the ethics of psychologists employed by video game companies and social media industries. These psychologists are questioning the use of behavioral psychology methods to manipulate members of the public, especially children.

Fortunately, Dr. Freed also offered advice for parents on how to help children navigate the digital world. Relationships are key. Set limits. Monitor how children are using devices. Be an authoritative parent. Seek help if needed. And stay connected—with family!

What limits do you set to help your children navigate the digital world? Please share your tips with me on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.