Navigating Today's Digital World: Maximizing Technology Benefits + Mitigating Risk
Infinity Kids recently hosted Diana Graber, who presented her Cyber Civics and Cyberwise Programs to our community. Diana is an expert on digital literacy, and the author of "Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology". Infinity Kids is proud to be an ally in helping today’s children navigate the digital world, and our concerns about this matter became more pressing when we looked at data from our local schools from the Early Developmental Index (EDI) and found that one-third of children in OC had not developed the necessary abilities to enter kindergarten, and one in four kindergarteners were vulnerable or at risk in the area of Language and Cognitive Development.
Once financial strains and access to education and resources were ruled out, we couldn’t help but wonder what makes kids in these areas struggle to meet the standards of formal education? A common hypothesis was that although many families in OC are well educated and financially solvent, technological development has introduced drastic changes in relating and interacting with one another, directly impacting school readiness.
Research has shown that the effects of TV and video games have been mostly negative, particularly regarding language development and executive functioning. The long term impact of handing a connected device to a fussy child has not been conclusive yet, because the iPad alone is only 10 years old! What we do know and has been proven is that humans become humane through active, real, live interactions with their caregivers. The capacity to learn, to share, to listen, to value and to be empathic - to be compassionate - develops from being cared for, shared with, listened to, valued and nurtured by another human being.
According to Graber’s publication, 44% of children under the age of one use mobile devices every single day, and by the age of two, that jumps to 77%. One in ten children between four and seventeen years of age have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. While there is no consensus on what is causing these problems, it is important that we evaluate what impact the misuse of technology may have upon a child’s cognitive, social, and/or emotional development. The truth of the matter is, just like Graber pointed out, unless we plan to raise our kids with paper bags over their heads, it is inevitable that they will encounter screens as they grow. So how do we maximize the benefits of technology and mitigate the risk? Diana Graber recommends the following guidelines:
1) Laying a strong foundation of social and emotional skills by:
• Setting boundaries
• Monitoring use, behavior, and content
• Being clear about what is acceptable
• Engaging and leading by example
• Growing empathy
• Setting up digitally unplugged family time
• Teaching kids to look into others’ eyes
• Talking emotions -- Point them out at every age, but particularly when children are young
• Reading books and watching movies that are emotionally charged
• Taking advantage of mealtimes, bedtimes, and carpool to connect emotionally with children and chat, chat, chat
2) Helping your children build a sturdy structure with four strong pillars that will help them deal with any digital crisis they may have to face in the future.
3) Creating a vibrant community by teaching ourselves and children to take initiative.
Stay tuned for our next blog post that will follow-up on this important topic. We will discuss how to create a healthy online community and provide more tips for the second and third guidelines. Rather than waiting for school to take care of media literacy education, take an active role in preparing your kids for a media-filled world. If you’re uncertain about how to go about media literacy, give us a call or visit www.cyberwise.org.
- Belen Guillen, LMFT
Infinity Kids Parent Educator
About Diana Graber
Diana Graber is an expert in digital literacy and writes for, is interviewed by, and speaks often about technology's impact upon human behavior. Cyber Civics, GraberDiana’s award-winning in-classroom program for middle school, teaches students how to become ethical, thoughtful, and smart digital citizens, and is currently taught in classrooms across 42 U.S. states (and internationally). Cyberwise, aka "No Grownup Left Behind," is a resource site for parents and teachers that offers updated information about digital citizenship, social networking, cyberbullying, sexting, online games, reputation management, online privacy, and more.