Anyone who knows me, knows I heart technology. My IT husband hearts it even more, so in our house we’re always working to find some balance between ‘life’ and technology. I know they often intersect, but sometimes we struggle to avoid evenings and weekends in front of a screen – as tempting as it sometimes is!
I imagine many parents and kids with whom you work probably struggle with this too. On the one hand, we have that whole transliteracy thing going on (which is the ability to read and write across a range of platforms) where we want kids to be able to thrive in all of these cool technological ways but on the other hand, we have Enough Already with the technology! So how do you help your families (and yourself perhaps!) get to a place of balance? I offer a few tips (some of which I got from this great Mashable article):
- Create tech-free zones (in the library and at home!) Though I’m not a parent, if I were, I’d probably make the bedroom a tech-free zone – much like mine and my husband’s. Or better, the breakfast/dinner table! Which would be a little hard for me – I MUST check email! As far as library space goes, I know many libraries have cell-phone-free areas, like the storytime room that allow parents to be fully present with you and their little ones (though I wouldn’t recommend making your whole library cell-phone-free – that’s just ridiculous!)
- Encourage parents to take part in some of their kids’ online activities. And I don’t just mean in the ‘monitoring’ sense. The more parents share in what their kids are doing, the more discussion and interaction that can happen later!
- In the same vein as the tech-free zones, suggest parents establish un-interuptable times. My husband and I try to have one computer-free day a week. It’s actually really challenging, but rewarding. We find ourselves enjoying the yard, taking a walk, or (gasp!) reading a book! One father from that Mashable article won’t answer emails or texts from 7-9 every night. I love it!
- Consider offering workshops for parents on parental permissions across various platforms. Parents in your community might not understand the kinds of limits they can set for Xbox Live, for example. Do they want their 9 year old chatting with everyone? Cell phones also have restrictions like not allowing multi-media texts. With multiple computer users in a household, accounts can be created for each member of the family. Each account comes with its own unique sets of permissions – no downloading anything for the 6-year old! I don’t even have admin rights on our TV computer! I imagine parents would love an evening workshop to learn about some of those options and tactics.