Parenting Tech-Savvy Kids Well


By: Account Manager, Shawna Ramsey

As parents we want our children to be well-rounded and grow into responsible adults. With technology moving at lightening speeds, our kids want to explore all of the digital opportunities that are out there. We want them to be curious, but we also don’t want them to become digital zombies. How does a parent ensure that happens? In the SXSW session, Digital Parenting: Raising Balanced Innovators, they explored these complex issues with a parent/child panel, discussion of tech in education and exploration of some of the psychological issues that parents are facing.


Digital devices are part of childhood now with data pointing to the fact that kids typically get their first mobile phone by the age of 12. The children on the panel confirmed that there is pressure from their peers to keep up with the times. However in some instances, they felt that their parents may understand the technology better than they do. Some of the kids mentioned that they have online time limits, but others indicated that their parents trust them to limit their activities. In order to try to maintain balance, the parents mentioned that they try to incorporate family activities into the day-to-day routine. Many also ensured that their children were involved in after school activities – like sports teams. The kids asserted that popular activities online for their peer group include social media, gaming, and information gathering (many are using it as a tool to teach themselves new things).


Technology has opened up a lot of opportunities for the education system, but many schools continue to follow an older classroom model. The simple truth is that information is everywhere – it is limitless and free. A quote from Will Richardson summarizes it best – “What is the value of school at a moment when we don’t really need school to do school?” Schools need to talk about digital literacy and establish a digital approach with their teachers. It’s important for them to explore alternative classroom models like flipped classrooms – lectures watched at home followed by homework and discussion performed in class. Also, teachers need to think outside of the box when it comes to leveraging tech. Dan Whalen, Instructional Technology Coach, used an example where he formed a program for teachers on Twitter to learn how to network with other teachers and tweet positive things that happen in the classroom.


Parents need to fundamentally shift their old ways of thinking when it comes to parenting.  Parents should consider leveraging modeling techniques – adjust how much time is spent on devices at home. Also, encourage balance by offering alternatives to online time (ex. game night, outside activities as a family, etc.). When it comes to school, it’s time to encourage learning versus being laser-focused on the old grading models. Torch, one of session sponsors, offered six emerging patterns that they observed from parents they studied that were “doing it right”: (1) “Screentime” is not an emotionally charged topic. (2) Technology is used as a tool for creating, not just consumer. (3) Parents are genuinely curious about what their kids are doing online. (4) Clear boundaries are established and there is follow through when rules are broken. (5) Authoritative parenting style is practiced – setting limits, reasoning with kids and being responsive to their unique emotional needs. (6) Parents need to practice what they preach.


As a quote from Shefali Tsabary outlines, “When you parent it’s crucial that you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with it’s own signature.” Be the type of parent that embraces their child’s identity, fosters a strong bond with them and enjoy the digital ride.