Thank you to the 110 parents who attended the Families Connected Speaker Series event on September 19, Media Moms & Digital Dads, presented by Dr. Yalda Uhls of UCLA. We’d also like to thank three Families Connected Parent Ambassadors, Autumn Stephens, Jennifer Buchsbaum, and Aga Chen-Fu for taking the time to share with South Bay Families Connected and Beach Cities Health District their take-aways from the event. What a great way to share this information and insight with our parent community.
I’ll admit, I sometimes want to avoid parenting lectures because I fear I’ll leave reminded of all the things I should be doing but am not. I did not, however, feel that way leaving Yalda Uhls presentation!
Here are my top takeaways (I promise they won’t keep you up at night with parent anxiety):
Research shows there are cognitive benefits gained from playing video games! Parents like me who endured the Fortnite epidemic take heart. I can’t remember the specifics (I’m old. And tired.) but Dr. Uhls book probably explains it all, and I consider this news a win.
Kids aren’t addicted to their devices - they’re addicted to their friends. And that’s completely age appropriate! If I could have sent instant messages to my friends in middle school all day at any time, I would have, and you would’ve too, right? If kids could only communicate with their friends through magic banana telephones all of our kids would be addicted to banana telephones instead of smart phones. Technology shouldn’t entirely take the place of real face-to-face interactions, but the research says they’d rather hang with their friends in person anyhow. Phew!
Forget about the shame and guilt. Instead we need to just have a conversation with our kids. And then have another. And another. It should be a dialogue that explores what works for them and what works for us. And when one of us gets it wrong, we “course correct.” (That was Dr. Uhls phrase, of course, because she’s the smart one!) And, we shouldn’t shame and blame ourselves or our kids. Instead of asking my son, “Do you ever get off that device?!” or asking myself, “Am I raising a digital zombie sociopath?” I’m going to take a breath (a mindful breath of course because we’ve all been to that parenting lecture as well!) and continue to explore that works best for my family.
Before listening to Dr. Uhls’ presentation everything I heard about technology and our kids was to HOLD OUT AS LONG AS YOU CAN. I would feel guilt for letting my child play on the iPad after school or letting her watch TV. Even though I knew she was not falling prey to the dangers of the evil device, I would question whether or not I was doing the right thing.
Dr. Uhls shared data from research studies focused on device-use and children’s development, and (deep exhale), we’re going to be OK. I appreciated her real-life approach to managing device-use. Here were my top takeaways:
In the late 1800’s American society was concerned about a new “device” that was going to ruin their children’s minds. Believe it or not, it was books everyone was afraid of! This helped me realize that with anything new there is always fear.
Communication is essential. It’s not so much about how much time you let your children use a device. It’s more about how much time you spend with your kids talking about the games they like to play or the shows they like to watch. These conversations will naturally lead to valuable teachable moments. And, your kids will love that you have taken an interest in something they enjoy.
Charge your phones overnight in another room. Do not keep them next to your bed. I admit, I’m guilty of this, but I’m going to give this a try so I can model the type of behavior I want my child to do.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the presentation with Yalda Uhls, but I was definitely thinking that I would get more tactical information regarding apps or social media that our children should or should not be using. I was surprised to hear this very COMMON SENSE approach that truly removed the fear about social media and parenting in the digital age.
I walked away feeling like, yes, we can do this, and yes parenting is hard, but it’s not the end of the world with all the social media and digital access children have.
My top takeaways were:
Social Scaffolding :talk about it and connect the online and offline world; especially managing your digital reputation and how big the stakes can be.
Role Modeling: we need to do as we say and get off our phones, focus on quality face to face time.
Common Sense Media Agreement: Great resource for talking points about phones, apps, social media .