Parenting a Child Under 3 in the Digital Age

Parenting in the digital age is bringing new challenges to parents - and children alike.

One of the keys for moving forward as a Digital Parent is to understand the issues and then apply best practices to your family. But attention, don't be afraid to mix and match things up to find something that works for your family.

Effects of Screen time

  • Research is not conclusive on the effects of screens on child development, so err on the side of caution and find balance for screens in the life of your child. Too much screen time may damage the brain, inhibit the ability to recognize emotions, and affect child development.

Screen limits

  • Most pediatricians and psychologists on both sides of the Channel recommend no screens for our wee ones. Wee = less than two years old. 
  • If you’re feeling rebellious about screen limits and have older children, compare your digital family plan with Nanea Hoffman, author of an inspiring no-screen limit article for...
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Mixing-up Offline and Online Activities

When school is out, there is a tendency to take lots of digital breaks.

With long weekends or school vacation my boys are ecstatic, but I am a little bit less so.  What begins as good intentions - "we'll go to museums, we'll do arts and crafts, we'll play board games as one big, happy family" - too often ends as, "let's watch the iPad." (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as this article will show you.)

So while I put some measures in place to keep my boys alert and interested, I thought I would share them with you.

Don’t ban all Internet-related activities.  If your family is like mine, you may have a mini-revolt on your hands.  Use the downtime to look at some things together online – if you’re on a ski vacation, how about checking out the history of skiing?  National Geographic puts out some beautiful and interactive history lessons on skiing.  A long weekend vacation with stormy skies? Why not check out some of Huffington Posts...

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Recapture Quality Family Dinner Time

Tech Tale: How does a family who loves technology manage tech-free dinners?

Nathalie is the mother of an 8 year old boy and a 13 year old girl. Her children love technology and since they do their homework and household chores with minimal yelling, Nathalie hasn't imposed any strict limits.

But Nathalie has noticed something that is really displeasing: eating out with technology. Initially when the children were younger, Nathalie and her husband would go out to dinner and in order to have a bit of quiet time so that the adults could talk, Nathalie would hand over her smartphone while her husband did the same.

Little by little the family outings became less and less family and more and more tech and Nathalie now wants to recapture the family togetherness, but she's worried that it's too late. Her kids are too used to gaming and texting while waiting for their dinners to arrive.

How can Nathalie re-create the family dinners that she remembers when she was young? (You know, the family...

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Sanity, Screen Limits and Sitting Less

I think the question I am asked most by parents is “How can I set screen limits – that work?”

Sometimes the parents explain further in no uncertain terms: “How the hell do I get my kid away from that gaming console?” or “I want my iPad back and I’m sick of negotiating for it” or “If I have to scream one more time to get the kids out from in front of the TV and to the dinner table, I can not be held responsible for my actions.”

If any of those scenarios seem familiar to you, read on. I’m going to share some of the parenting tips that I have heard, read or implemented and hope that something resonates for you.

Screen Tickets: Give your child 2 tickets a day, each worth half an hour. Once they’ve cashed them in, that’s it. No more TV. No more tablet. No more gaming console. You define the rules for your tickets. Get creative, perhaps a yellow ticket for TV time; red ticket for tablet; green ticket for gaming...

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Educational Apps for the Summer

I know what you're thinking: "But what a minute - she's been advocating screen limits for summer, extracurricular activities so the kids won't reach for their tech and now she wants them to play with apps?"  No I haven't been out in the sun too long, but I do think that technology - in the right dosage - is a very good thing indeed.

So what about those educational apps?

If your kids are looking for a little time on the computer or tablet or smartphone, why not let them engage in an age-appropriate educational activity? They will think you are being super cool and laid-back about their screen limits, while you know that they are getting some much needed intellectual stimulation over the summer.  And as the experts are keen to note, summer reading and learning activities help reduce the Summer Brain Drain.

Check out Common Sense Media's Summer Learning Guide which specifically breaks down different learning categories by age (2-7, 8-12, 13-17).  Your child can Explore...

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Tech Tales & Tips: Digital Role Model

Tech Tale:

Vanessa is a working mother who uses her laptop and smartphone to conduct business when she’s at home. In between giving her children a bath and preparing dinner, she can often be found skimming her emails on her smartphone or checking the news alerts for updates impacting her business. If she is under a deadline, she may even set-up her laptop in the kitchen and work a bit while waiting to pull a roast out of the oven.

Vanessa thought she had a handle on it all, juggling work and home life in admirable fashion, until she overheard her children one evening:

“We can’t ask mom, she’s on the computer again.”

“She’s always working. She never wants to play with us.”

“Let’s hide her smartphone.”

And the guilt sets in.

. . .

You and I both know that Vanessa is by no means a bad mother. She is just like you and me, trying to make it all work. She reminds me of that Enjoli commercial from the 80’s: She’s...

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Digital Detox over a Weekend

What is a digital detox?

Basically a detox is just shutting down, turning off and stepping away from technology.  A detox, just like a food detox, is a chance to give your body and mind a much needed break or short rest from overindulgence.

And let's face it: we all indulge in our technology.

So join me for a digital detox this weekend? Or if you can't manage a weekend, how about for the evening?

Too hard?  Okay, try for just an hour.  The benefits might surprise you.

Write to me at [email protected] and let me know how your own digital detox went or share your personal success tips.

I would love to hear from you!

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Spring Training for the Digital Parent

Internet, mobile phones and wi-fi connected devices are ubiquitous.  And this "everywhere - at all times" Internet access may cause parents to feel frustrated by their lack of concrete technical knowledge and expertise.

So what can you as a parent do to protect your children, when it seems as though your children are more tech savvy than you are?

Communicate with your child.
Stay involved in your child’s online activities by talking with them and showing interest in their online world. Ask them to show you their favorite websites or the latest app or online game. Use The Parent Zone WWW approach as a guide when communicating with your children. Who are they talking to? What are they doing online? Where are they going online?

Digital footprints, comments and photos are forever.
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is a golden rule online. Teach your child that online activities – stay online forever. They may not be...

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Cartoons in the better?

I read this Huffington post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/08/how-screen-time-affects-kids_n_5765568.html)  that really got me thinking about cartoons and our children.  So much so that I knew I needed to write a blogpost about it.  The burning issue?  Screen time.

Yes, yes, I know that I’ve covered screen time in the past: screen limits, setting boundaries, but this article made me re-think some of my own television habits.  You see, I’ll let you in a dirty little secret: before we head off to school, I let my boys watch 15-20 min of cartoons in the morning while I’m getting dressed.

Like you, I thought this was a key move in multi-tasking.  The kids get a cute little break with Mickey and his friends, Peppa Pig or even that square guy, Sponge Bob.

But attention parents, as quoted in the article:

Parents who are waking up in the morning and letting their children watch TV first thing before school are really missing...

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School's out for the summer

As a parent of a teenager, you have faced digital challenges all year long, from teenagers multi-tasking on IM, while doing Google searches (and swearing that they are doing homework), watching the latest videos and tweeting at the same time.

Parents of younger children have had a tough year trying to figure out which app was the best educational tool or how to put screen limits on those iPads or parental controls on a computer.

Parents of toddlers are just trying to get their head around all this digital parenting stuff and they are still wondering why their 2 year old keeps swiping the television screen.

Parents of newborns are in awe of their tiny bundle of joy, and they are taking tons of photographs to share via social media (unwittingly creating a digital identity for their baby.)

Whatever the age of your child, I want to remind you that summer is stretched out in front of us and if you don’t have a digital plan in place, you may find that your kids sit in front of the...

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