These days it feels like technology is changing at the speed of light especially for parents who feel like we’ve just mastered one thing our kids are interested as they have moved on to 10 other new things we’ve never heard about. It’s easy to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and feeling like throwing up your hands and resolving yourself to always be behind but as Devorah Heitner advises in her new book, Screenwise, “That doesn’t mean you have to be a tech whiz, with full command of all devise and apps. It does mean that you will have to be empowered as a mentor.”
For today’s generation of moms and dads who are parenting in the digital world, Screenwise (available for pre-order via Amazon and in stores on September 6) is a must-have read that assists parents navigating this complicated space with kids of all ages in an approachable way that doesn’t make us feel guilty any gaps in our knowledge. Instead the book empowers all parents through its thoughtful nature to help our kids survive and thrive in the world that they’re growing up in.
From assessing your own digital literacy, providing ways to become tech positive, to teaching us how to empathize with our kids as it relates to their digital lives, Screenwise serves as a helpful roadmap for topics that follow in future chapters that explore family life, friendship and dating, and school life during the digital age.
I read Screenwise during a long car ride home from the beach this summer and found myself nodding along throughout the book. Heitner empowers parents without guilt and provides helpful tips for the tech savvy and not-so-tech-savvy. It’s a book that every parent should read.
I recently interviewed Devorah Heitner to get her perspective on some topics that have been of great interest to readers and followers of Tech Savvy Mama and love having the opportunity to share her wisdom with you.
Tech Savvy Mama— Your new book, Screenwise, is a fabulous resource and a must-have handbook for those of us parenting in the digital age. In it, you talk about how technology has blurred the lines between home and work because it does make us accessible more than ever. How can we reclaim our lives when technology is all around us?
Devorah Heitner— We can set ourselves up for success by curating our home environment. Placing the chargers and media stockpiles in public spaces and also making sure there are other attractive games, toys, intruments and art supplies. If all the cozy fun spots in our homes are screen spaces, that’s how we’ll spend our time. It is also important to model boundaries and balance for our kids–easier said than done!
Tech Savvy Mama— In the first chapter you mention the importance of talking to kids, being their mentor, and supporting them as they navigate through this world but how can we get our kids to listen when they know mom and dad aren’t as tech savvy as they are? While you say parents don’t have to be tech whizzes, how can we get our kids to put down their devices and respect what we have to say?
Devorah Heitner— Trust your own wisdom from our lived experience. You may not be a snapchat whiz, but you know how it feels to not be invited to something and to hear about it. We can also ask them what their least favorite tech habit of ours is and openly work on changing that habit. Show them how having boundaries and balance can reduce stress.
Tech Savvy Mama— There are so many companies peddling products for parents to keep our kids safe on their devices. What advice do you have for parents when it comes to monitoring tools, filtering software, devices to impose screen time limits, etc.?
Devorah Heitner— These tools can have their place (ie kid search engines for example) but we never want to over-rely on apps. They just aren’t as smart as we are. There is no nuance there. Your kid could be crying because of a nuanced social experience in a game or social app and no app would have picked up the cause, but your knowledge of your child is the key.
Tech Savvy Mama— Why is it more important to mentor than monitor?
Devorah Heitner— We don’t want to catch our kids doing the wrong things, we want to teach them to do the right things! And that’s an ongoing conversation. Our kids need us to help them repair when they mess up. They may need advice, for example, when they add something to a group text that they though was funny and other kids find it insensitive…our guidance on how to apologize and move forward in the relationship.
Tech Savvy Mama— Let’s talk cell phones. I find that many parents take the time to research what phone to get their child and the kind of data plan to go but then hand it to them, forgetting to have a conversation about expectations. What kinds of conversations should a family have before their child gets their first cell phone and if there are missteps, is it too late to revisit expectations and put a plan in place for it’s use once the device is in-hand?
Devorah Heitner— Kids need guidance about when to text and when to talk in person, how to set boundaries like telling friends you can’t text after a certain hour, being patient with friends if they don’t respond immediately you don’t panic and text again and again. Continuing the conversation is a must! Things change over time. Asking permission before taking and sharing pictures. Where will the phone live and at what times can it be used?
Tech Savvy Mama— Technology is changing so rapidly that it can be difficult for parents to feel like they have a grasp on the latest devices, apps, and social networks. If you don’t know what you don’t know, where do you even start without being completely intimidated by what’s out there?
Devorah Heitner— Start by talking with your kids, asking them to share how other kids are using the app, game or device they want. Ask them to show your someone who is using the app in a positive way and if possible, an example that isn’t so nice. YouTube is a great resource to see people playing games…a great way to check out games before you purchase them. Also talk with other parents in your network
Tech Savvy Mama— Can you share what a healthy family culture around technology looks like? What should all families strive for?
Devorah Heitner— Having a culture that is intentional and open. Where the adults can admit their mistakes and model great balance and boundaries for kids. Find ways that games, apps or experiences can bring the family together. Can your kids help plan a family vacation using Internet research? Do you all love to play Pokemon Go together? With so many screens, it is easy to never watch the same media but a family movie night or game night can still be great and it is good to stretch our tastes to share a few media experiences versus always customizing to individual tastes. If technology is keeping you all apart and making you feel stressed and disengaged than you want to see how you can adapt things to feel better.
I received a pre-release copy for review and to faciliate this post but no compensation was received. All opinions are my own. Amazon affiliate links included in this post.