Podcast: Technology and Kids with Devorah Heitner

Brave Writer Podcast

Wondering how to juggle technology and kids? Today’s Brave Writer podcast episode is dedicated to addressing the number one requested topic: screen time and our children.

With the rise of technology and the numerous devices available, it’s natural for us to feel overwhelmed and concerned about the impact screens are having on our kids. Do you ever feel guilty about letting your children watch television or use their devices, even though you don’t feel the same way about listening to a podcast or audiobook?

Devorah Heitner
Devorah Heitner

Our guest today, Devorah Heitner, is here to help us answer our most pressing questions and ease the nervousness we feel around screen time. Devorah is a Ph.D. who studied media, technology, and society at Northwestern University and works with communities, schools, and companies to raise tech-savvy children. She is the author of the best-selling book, Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive and Survive in Their Digital World, and is here to offer practical advice, not add more shame or guilt to our already complex relationship with screens.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn about managing screen time for our children.

Show Notes

Should parents be concerned about tech?

It can be a significant challenge to manage technology in homeschooling environments. With constant access to tech devices like iPads and laptops, it’s difficult for parents to set boundaries. The devices are always present and the temptation to use them is high. This can be especially difficult for parents juggling multiple responsibilities, who sometimes use technology as a distraction. The tension between the availability of technology and the need to manage it is one of the biggest challenges faced by families.

Devorah is optimistic about the experiences kids can have — but has to admit her concern that tech companies don’t have their best interests in mind. However, communities like homeschoolers are showing great innovation. We want kids to know that technology is there to support them, not the other way around. It should enhance learning and connections, not control them.

Parents’ concerns are real, but how we react to those concerns is what is most important: We don’t want to be overly controlling and limiting, and at the same time we don’t want to just throw up our hands and give in freely. We have to focus on what technology can make better, and mentor our children in ways to use it that enhance their lives.

Mentors vs Monitors

When it comes to parenting and technology, it’s important to understand the difference between mentoring and monitoring. Mentoring focuses on setting your children up for success and helping them make their own decisions, while monitoring is more about catching them when they do something wrong. It’s important to prioritize teaching your children to do the right thing, rather than just catching them when they make mistakes. Mentoring is an ongoing conversation that involves sharing personal experiences, such as tech mishaps, and helping your children build their character and decision-making skills.

Entering into consensual monitoring is the key.

In terms of technology and parenting, filters and child locks can be helpful, but they are not a complete solution. It’s crucial to have open and honest conversations with your children about topics such as pornography and other potentially harmful content they may encounter online. Even with filters in place, your children may still come across these things, so it’s important to create an environment where they feel comfortable talking to you if they encounter something concerning.

Tips for regulating screen usage

In order to help children raised in the streaming era to have a balanced relationship with television, it’s important to create attractive unplugged zones in the home. This can be done by:

  • Visiting libraries, and bookstores, and restocking art supplies to keep things new and exciting.
  • It’s not always necessary to buy new items, but rotating the supplies and making them accessible helps kids engage in activities that don’t involve screens.
  • Making other spaces in the home attractive, such as a cozy spot around the piano or a game area, can help shift the focus away from screens.

When kids are drawn to technology-based activities, such as gaming or YouTube how-to tutorials, it’s important to encourage them to use that knowledge to create something in real life. This can be done by asking them to make dinner or to use the knowledge from the tutorials to make something. The goal is to have them create rather than just consume, as too much screen time can have negative impacts on their development.

Our kids are ultimately going to have to live with technology their whole lives. Keeping it inaccessible to them for most of their lives is only going to hold them back. But if we can set boundaries around what matters most and educate them on responsible usage of technology, their relationship with it may be better than our own.


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