AMES, Iowa – Children are being immersed in the digital world and its infinite possibilities at an increasing rate. Parents are facing a daunting task as digital devices become more popular among children. They must raise digital natives who can navigate the digital world responsibly and reap its benefits, says Malisa Rader, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“With this paradigm shift, a new type of parenting has emerged called digital and technology parenting. It aims to equip children with the skills and knowledge they need for life in a modern digital society,” said Rader, who specializes in family wellbeing.
Digital and technology parenting aims to strike a balance between screen time and real-world experiences. According to studies, excessive screen time in a child’s early years can have negative effects on development. This includes language and cognitive delays. Experts recommend setting limits on device usage and encouraging children to engage in a variety of activities online and offline. Outdoor play, arts and crafts projects, and reading are all ways to promote holistic development without relying too heavily on digital devices.
Rader stressed the importance of technology and digital parenting to establish a responsible online presence in children, as they interact more with others online.
“Parents are essential in teaching their children about internet safety, privacy and cyberbullying. Open lines of communication between children and parents are necessary to build trust and to encourage children to report any online encounters that cause discomfort,” Rader said.
Parents should become tech-savvy so they can participate actively in their children’s digital journey. Knowing what apps, games and platforms their kids use will help them better evaluate the risks or benefits of various technologies, Rader noted.
Educational technology, often referred to as edtech, is a vital part of digital parenting, Rader continued. Edtech tools provide access to a wealth of educational resources, such as age-appropriate games, apps and tutorials, which can enhance the learning experience for a child. Parents must ensure that the content of edtech is engaging, credible and appropriate for a child’s development stage.
“Digital and technology parenting is more than just regulation. It involves preparing children to be critical thinkers, responsible citizens and innovators,” Rader said. “This parenting approach encourages creativity, problem solving and digital literacy skills. It also provides opportunities for children who are interested in STEM or coding activities to develop their imaginations and growth mindsets and prepares them for future job markets.”
Digital and technology parenting is about finding a balance between the use of technology and traditional education. Parents can help their children become confident, competent and ethical digital citizens by being involved, setting limits, encouraging dialogue and emphasizing responsible behavior online, Rader said.
July is the month of purposeful parenting. For additional help understanding and caring for the children in your life, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers numerous resources on parenting at their website: extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/parenting.
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