Episode 6: Technology and Your Child

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Transcript

Dad 1
She was perfectly fine that night. But we set some limitations. So we got this bed time thing going. It’s been going for a while now. So my daughter does things like say if her mom still has a car, and it’s after eight o’clock, Mommy, you really messing with my bedtime right now because I want to watch my shows before I go to sleep. But it’s already so she tried, we got a limitation. If she gets in the house before, like, before a little bit before close to bedtime, we give her a 30 minute gap. She lay down with the phone and look at YouTube. But after that its away so some limitation for it. And she respects it. My son does as well too. For some reason, though, he kind of he wakes up in the morning now. He goes brush his teeth, he watches his face brushes, he puts his school clothes on the game, he plays the game this game is crazy because he got me because he [all dads laugh] He’s doing everything he needs to do. Alrigh, you wash your face, brush your teeth. I can respect that.

Dad 2
But it’s I know it’s a lot of stuff that you know, like an inappropriate, you know, videos and stuff they that pop up on you know on YouTube. So I have to monitor a lot, you know what she she watches and you know, because she might not know what the video is about until she get it plays and I just have to keep a close eye on it. You know, because that that stuff does worry me because there’s a lot of inappropriate stuff on, you know, on social media and all that so

Roxy Etta
Welcome to Anywhere Dads a podcast from University of Wisconsin Madison Extension with information and tips on how dads in jail can connect with their kids. This podcast combines the voices of dads in jail with experts in child development, parenting and incarceration. I’m your host, Roxy Etta.

Anne Clarkson
My name is Anne Clarkson. I am an outreach specialist with University of Wisconsin Madison Extension. And I focus on digital parenting education.

Roxy Etta
Okay, great. We’re so thankful to have you here today. Thanks for being with us. So we’re talking about technology, and technology with children in specific, which is a really hot topic, big buzzword. Do you have anything you’d like to share just about parent concerns in general?

Anne Clarkson
I’d love to. Yeah. So technology, when we think about it really is this new frontier, it’s a new environment that parents are are navigating that their parents didn’t have to figure out. And so there is a lot of new information and new decisions around technology that parents are making. Even just 10 years ago, technology was something that not everybody had access to. But now in the United States, almost every person can have access in some form, whether it’s a computer or a tablet, or a smartphone. So technology is this environment in which we breathe. That’s where we are every day. And that means as parents, we have decisions to make to help our children learn how to navigate that environment successfully and safely.

Roxy Etta
Great. So Ana, can you tell us a little bit about what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for parents and their children screen time?

Anne Clarkson
The way I like to think about screen time recommendations is to remember a little phrase two by two by two. So just think about two. And what you’re going to remember is that the recommendation is for children to have two hours or less of screen time per day, after the age of two, and ideally with two or more people. What we mean by that is that children need a balanced diet of all sorts of activities in their lives. And so by by limiting screen time to two hours per day, it leaves time for other great opportunities in their lives, playing with other friends reading books, being outside, sleeping, eating, you know, taking baths, we also recommend that children don’t have screentime until after the age of two, because research shows that any younger than two children really don’t learn from technology. And then finally, we recommend that screentime happens with two or more people because really the most powerful way for kids to use screens is to use screens with another person. So maybe that’s playing a game with someone maybe that’s watching a show and talking about it. Maybe it’s just taking silly pictures, but that interaction is how children learn best. Children really learn through relationships with other people and also through movement. And so when we can add that to screen time or giving kids, the best step up.

Roxy Etta
with those recommendations are do you think that there are any gray areas? Or there’s any flexibility in that? Like, is it definitely before the age of to like, keep your child away from any sort of screen, or what should they recommend there?

Anne Clarkson
There’s definitely some gray area. I like to share two by two by two, because I think it’s something that’s easy for parents to remember. And it’s a good goal. But with as with all goals, there is some room for flexibility. We know that even young infants can benefit from having video chats with loved ones. So just getting to see the faces of someone who they might not be able to see in person frequently hearing their voice. Having that positive interaction can be something that builds relationship from a really early age. And so I would hate to say that, you know, an infant couldn’t video chat with grandma and grandpa or their mom or dad who’s not nearby. We also know that really, the recommendation around screen time is linked to how children learn. And so when kids are just watching or listening to a show, when they’re just engaged in technology for only entertainment, it’s, it’s not bad, but they’re missing out on other opportunities to learn. And so that’s why balance is so important. So even a, you know, an 18 month old might enjoy a show while your mom or dad is cooking supper, for instance. And it’s also important that that kid get some screen free time to play with blocks or or help with something else in the house.

Roxy Etta
Would you say then that while navigating screens with especially young children in like toddlerhood or even later in infancy, do you think that it’s just really important to focus on interactivity so having it be an interactive, like either video chat experience with grandma that lives far away, for example, or have it be like a co-viewing or co-use experience. So having parents watch television with their child and explain things that are happening in the show that perhaps they don’t understand or playing a game with them together on the iPad to sort of help them understand the rules or the mechanics of the game?

Anne Clarkson
Yes, an analogy I like to think about is that you wouldn’t just throw your baby into a swimming pool, or let your 18 month old walk to school by themselves. Those are skills that you teach your child over time. And I think technology is very similar to that we build our children’s skills with using technology in a way that supports their their brain that supports their day to day life, and also in a way that allows them to be safe online. So especially with young children, it’s very important to use technology together, or at least as a parent make the decisions about what it is that they’re watching or doing on technology and setting them up safely so that they can’t switch to something else while you walk away to you know, take your shower, or cook a meal. Then as kids get older, and they gain more skills, you can give them more and more freedom with technology as they have more and more ability to make smart, safe decisions.

Roxy Etta
Do you have any information on parents that have older children, perhaps like teenage years, and what they can do to help with screentime?

Anne Clarkson
Yes, parents with older children, especially if you haven’t been thinking about technology, or talking about it in your family early on. One of the most important things you can do with your child is to be a media mentor. So walk your child through some of the things that you’re doing, as you use technology to stay to stay safe, or to use it in ways that really benefit you. A simple example of that might be that maybe you turn notifications off on your device. And then instead of having your device push you to always check it, you get to choose when you go in and check it. Another example would be having your child show you who can see their profile online. And, and if they know where their friend list is who can view their profile if what they’re showing online is public or private that tells you that they’re able to stay safe in terms of sharing their private information online.

Roxy Etta
Great. So you’re saying suggesting perhaps that parents think about their not only being a mentor but also being a role model.

Anne Clarkson
Children turn their attention to what we turn our attention to. And so children notice that they are no longer the focus of our attention when we are putting the screen between us and them. And so they think well, what is it that’s so much more important than me? That I that my parent isn’t looking at me and instead they’re, they’re consumed by whatever it is in front of them on this device. And then a child will say, Well, maybe I should be looking at that too, because my mom or dad says that’s really important to look at.

Roxy Etta
Yeah, yeah. And I think the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, really trying to specifically designate that screen free time, like whether it’s meal time, or whether it’s the hour before bed that you spend together, perhaps everybody’s reading a book or something just like finding that specific time and reserving it in your day, and having it be like a fun, enjoyable time.

Anne Clarkson
Yes, that’s absolutely an important tip for families to take away is, you know, screens are ubiquitous, they’re part of our everyday life, they’re kind of everywhere we look. But we can make choices as families to say this is a time when screens aren’t part of our life, we put our we put our devices in a basket at dinnertime, and no one answers a phone or looks at a screen during dinner, or we all charge our devices in the kitchen at night instead of in our bedrooms. And or we spend time as a family for 30 minutes or an hour before bed without our devices. And that builds relationship. And it also helps us not be as dependent on those devices. It’s a good tip for families with older children, and also families with younger children. Just identifying that time of day, that is your child’s special time with you. There are no interruptions, they just know that they get your time at that time. I’ve heard of other parents too, who say, I don’t have a special time of day, like it’s not always 8pm at night. But instead I think of triggers throughout my day that are going to remind me to put my device away. So anytime I’m waiting in a line, I put my device away and I play a game with my child, or anytime we’re eating so even an infant who’s you know, nursing or using a bottle, they that parent maybe puts away a device at that time. And that’s another way to identify those times of day when you’re just really focused on your child.

Roxy Etta
I’ve done a bit of work on mindfulness and technology. So being mindful while using technology, which seems like it might not be two words that go together mindfulness and technology. And something that I’ve talked about a lot is using technology to engage versus disengage. So are you just like thinking about the purpose of what you’re doing? Anyways are using it to enhance something or to distract yourself from something. So if you’re using it in a line, for example, and you’re using it as a distraction, because waiting in line is boring? Well then think about your child who doesn’t have anything, potentially, to distract themselves, you know? So it’s like, what is the purpose? Or like, just really thinking mindfully about why am I reaching for my phone? Is it because I need a distraction? Or is it because I’m looking to like, text to my spouse or something like that? Is it? Is it a way to engage or disengage?

Anne Clarkson
A lot of parents I work with talk about how as soon as they sit down to, you know, look at one of their social media feeds or check some messages, you know, they’re just kicked up their feet and are relaxing, that’s when their child suddenly gets obnoxious and noisy and is pulling on them or picking on their sibling or doing something, you know, that you do not want them to be doing. And I think a huge piece of that is that children notice that our attention has shifted, and and they’re saying, What are you doing with that I you know, you’re no longer engaged with me or with with the world around me. And one way that parents can help their children understand why they’re using a screen is by saying out loud what it is that they are doing. So maybe you’re looking at a recipe online for supper, you actually can say out loud, oh, I’m just looking up the recipe for the meal, we’re cooking for supper, or maybe you’re checking, you know, a text message. Because someone’s coming over you say out loud, I’m just looking to see if if grandma is on her way. And it could even be you know, I’m I’m looking at this photo of you today. And I might share it with some of my friends online and simply announcing what it is being being intentional about your purpose for using your device can help kids feel more calm and less likely to try and distract you from what you’re doing.

Roxy Etta
And it sort of helps them see that there’s like an end time to like, Oh, I’m going to text so and so I’ll be done a minute, you know, like letting them know that it’s not just you staring into space for an unknown amount of time.

Anne Clarkson
And it holds us accountable as adults to because how many of us have like gone to our phone to check the time. And 30 minutes later, we look up from our friends Instagram photos, or silly cat videos on YouTube or something else that we did not start start out with.

Roxy Etta
We’ve all been there. Do you have any thoughts on content when it comes to being a digital mentor for kids?

Anne Clarkson
Yeah, another piece of being a digital mentor is helping children find quality content. And so when you’re thinking about television shows, for instance, a really easy place to go for quality content is to look at Public Broadcasting Services (PBS), they have free online shows that families can access, and they are all high quality shows. Another thing to think about is that technology isn’t only about shows or videos, television shows, it can also be a book on tape that you get at your library. It could be a drawing app that you find and you can color with your children. As a media mentor, you help your child navigate the 1000s and 1000s of possibilities out there and find a couple safe options. And if you need a space to look and make decisions about what are some good options, there’s a website called Common Sense Media that has really great reviews of apps and television shows and movies. And that can help guide you in guiding your child.

Roxy Etta
Yeah, that yeah, that I mean, parents really are the gatekeepers for their children, when it comes to the content that they have access to the apps that you download to your phone, the subscripts subscription services that you have things like that, really, it really does make or break what the child has access to. Do you have any advice for a father that might be navigating a visit with their child through a screen? Or do you foresee any challenges that might arise with that and how those challenges can be overcome?

Anne Clarkson
We’ve been speaking a lot about distraction. And I think that can be a challenge for a parent who is trying to communicate with their kid through a screen is that sometimes when we’re having a video call or a video visit, children are interested in talking to you on the screen, but they’re also interested in what what’s happening, you know, in the other room, or what their what their brother or sister is doing with Legos in front of them. And so it can feel when you’re on the other end, like your child doesn’t really care or they’re not focusing on you. And so I think that something parents can do when they’re using video calls or video visits with their children is to think about some kind of way to make a memory with that technology. So you can say to yourself, how do I want to make a memory on this video call today. And with young kids, maybe that’s that every time you do a video call, you have a special song you sing together. And you can do the actions because they can see you. So it might be might be the itsy bitsy spider or it might be your favorite song. You could read a book together and actually show them the pictures. You can play games, you know where you’re saying, Okay, come and poke my nose. And then you could make a silly noise every time they touch the screen. And with older kids a huge benefit is that they can see you be fully engaged. So you’re making a memory because they see man my dad is really watching me. And nodding when I talked to him about what happened today. Or having some kind of silly inside joke. There are ways that you can just say how do I want to make a memory today with this video call. Another piece about using technology to communicate, especially when you’re thinking about video calls is that we don’t all have perfect internet, it will be spotty sometimes one of you might freeze on the screen for a long period of time. And young children also have a short attention span. And so I think in addition to making a plan for one way you want to engage with your child or make a memory with your video call also set up the expectation that it might be short that your goal is maybe just one minute, and then you build up to two minutes and three minutes and eventually as your child practices doing video chats, you might find that you can easily have a 10 minute conversation, but it might take some practice to build up to that length of a call.

Roxy Etta
Okay, great Anne. Thanks so much for being here today. It was a pleasure chatting with you.

Anne Clarkson
Thank you.

Roxy Etta
Anywhere Dads is a product of the University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension’s Human Development and Relationships Institute and was created by Anne Clarkson, Roxy Etta, Mary Huser, Maggie Kerr, Elizabeth Lexau, Kevin Murphy, and Ciara Walker-Morgan. Music composed, arranged and performed by Doug White, Madison, Wisconsin.

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