I’d like to share with you tips from the book Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology by Diana Graber. I’ll give you my review and summary of the book, and I encourage you to buy your own copy.
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Book Review & Summary
The book gives optimistic and practical digital parenting advice. It covers the topics of digital reputation, screen time, relationships, privacy, and critical thinking, and dives into specifics including sending nudes and cyberbullying. The book teaches parents to help their kids gain social and emotional skills, then encourage them to engage in online communities in positive, productive ways.
Following are my notes from each chapter.
Introduction: Left to Their Own Devices
Tech education for kids primarily focuses on warning of dangers, rather than preparing for positive experiences. Empower them to use tech well.
How to decide if your child is ready for a connected device
- Has child developed social and emotional skills necessary to use device wisely?
- Does child know how to manage their online reputation?
- Does child know how to unplug?
- Does child know how to make and maintain safe, healthy relationships?
- Does child know how to protect their privacy and personal info?
- Does child know how to think critically about online info?
- Is child equipped to be a digital leader, using tech positively?
A Digital Journey Begins
There’s no long-term data on impact of digital devices (phones, tablets, etc.) on kids.
The more TV a child watches between ages 1 and 3, the greater likelihood that child will develop attention problems by age 7. Every additional hour of TV watched per day increases risk of attention problems by 10%.
Preschoolers who first watch 9 minutes of a fast-paced cartoon perform significantly worse on tasks that require attention than kids who first spend 20 minutes drawing.
Screens have mostly negative effects on children 2 and under, particularly related to language development and executive function.
Interactive tech may be better for kids than TV/video, especially live video interaction with humans.
Huge increase in ADHD diagnoses may be due to use of screens.
Guidelines from Children and Screens
- Set boundaries. Limit exposure to very young children. Make bedrooms media-free.
- Monitor use, behavior, content. Block inappropriate content. Watch and play video games with kids. Keep electronic media in public places. Talk to parents of children’s friends about what your children do in their homes.
- Be clear about acceptable behavior. Establish and enforce house rules about screen time. Don’t let media interfere in family relationships.
- Engage and lead by example. Obey your house rules.
Learning to Be Human
There are no credible research studies that show that a child exposed to more tech early in life has better educational outcomes than a tech-free kid.
Kids whose parents actively guided their kids online end up having the healthiest and most balanced relationships with tech. Kids whose parents minimized their use of tech end up engaging in problematic behaviors (access porn, post rude or hostile comments, impersonate someone, etc.).
68% of colleges say looking at applicants’ social media profiles is fair game. Nearly 90% of colleges say they’ve revoked a student’s offer based on something found online. Of admissions officers who check prospective students’ social media, 47% say they found info that gave a positive impression.
Most kids can start thinking logically and ethically around ages 12-13, but some parts of brain aren’t fully functional until age 25. One of last areas to mature is prefrontal cortex, largely responsible for rational thought and good judgment. Teens process info with their amygdala (emotions).
Design your digital billboard activity
- Tell children to think of their digital reputation as a billboard that anyone can see. It shows everything they post, or that others post about them.
- Let children think about what they want billboard to say.
- Draw blank billboard and have kids fill it with images and info they want displayed about themselves in 10 years.
AAP screen time recommendations
- Under 18 mos: Avoid all screen media, other than video chat.
- 18-24 mos: If you want to introduce digital media, watch high-quality programs with children.
- 2-5 years: Watch up to 1 hr/day of high-quality programs with children.
- 6+ years: Put limits on time spent on media, and types of media. Ensure media doesn’t replace sleep, physical activity, other healthy behaviors. Have media-free times together, and media-free places (such as bedrooms). Discuss online citizenship and safety.
Parental control software
Many devices have parental controls pre-installed (iPhone, Android, Mac, Windows, etc.).
Cyberbullying is online, intentional, repeated, and harmful. Not all unkind activity fits this definition.
Sending nudes and other sexually explicit messages (sexting) of minors, even between consenting kids, is illegal in most states. Nudes of minors are technically child pornography.
Kids can be charged for receiving nudes, as it’s considered child porn.
Kids charged with creation, possession, or distribution of child porn could do jail time and need to register as sex offenders.
Most states don’t have laws specifically about sending nudes, so it falls under existing child porn laws.
If a child receives a nude or semi-nude photo of a minor, they should immediately delete it and not tell anyone about it. If they’re asked, they should say they received it, but immediately deleted it.
Cyberbullying Research Center has research and resources for cyberbullying prevention and response.
STOMP Out Bullying has cyberbullying resources and live chat.
How to talk about sending nudes (sexting)
- Define sexting (sending, receiving, forwarding sexually explicit or suggestive images, messages, video). Explain that sending sexts of or between minors is a crime in most states. Look up laws in your state.
- Tell them not to send or ask for nudes.
- Tell them to delete any nudes they receive.
- Tell them to speak up if they find out about nudes being circulated. Tell them to first tell the person whose image it is.
- Explain that once a message is sent, it can’t be taken back.
- Share a cautionary tale and ask questions about what they’d do in that situation.
How to handle cyberbullying
- Take screenshot of evidence.
- Block and report bully.
- Talk to trusted adult or STOMP Out Bullying HelpChat Line about anything that makes them uncomfortable. Inform service provider about bullying.
Tell your kids they should never meet someone in real life that they first met online.
Teach kids to think critically online
- Search effectively and analyze search results.
- Understand how Wikipedia works.
- Understand copyright laws and plagiarism.
- Stay out of filter bubbles.
- Cite online sources.
Detecting CRAP online
- Currency: How recently was it posted? Has it been updated?
- Reliability: How reliable is the info? Are there references or sources?
- Author: Who’s the creator of the info? What are their credentials? Who’s the publisher or sponsor?
- Purpose, point of view: What’s the purpose (inform, entertain, persuade)? Does it sound like fact or opinion? Is creator biased? Is creator trying to sell something?
Media Bias/Fact Check exposes media bias and deceptive news practices.
Encourage media participation (creation and curation) versus consumption.
Questions to ask about media use
- Did you spend more time producing or consuming?
- What did you produce?
- What skills did you use?
- In what ways can you produce more and consume less in the future?
Shift focus from amount of time spent online to positive use of time spent online.
Celebrate and empower good use of tech, rather than focusing on bad.
Don’t think you can’t help your kids with online issues because you’re not tech-savvy. Most of the issues kids face with tech aren’t tech issues, they’re social issues, which you can help with.
If you found this summary helpful, then read the book, Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology by Diana Graber.
The Resources page has additional books about digital parenting.
What You Should Do
Here are the top tips I’ve selected from this book.
- To decide if your child is ready for a phone or other connected device, ask yourself the questions listed earlier.
- Set boundaries for use of digital media. Limit exposure to very young children.
- Monitor use, behavior, and content. Block inappropriate content. Watch and play video games with kids. Keep digital media in public places.
- Establish and enforce house rules about screen time and usage. Don’t let media interfere in family relationships.
- Actively guide your kids online; don’t leave them to figure everything out for themselves, or learn from peers.
- Teach your kids to think of their digital reputation as a billboard that anyone can see, which shows everything they post, or that others post about them.
- Ensure digital media doesn’t replace sleep, physical activity, and other healthy behaviors.
- Have media-free family times and places (such as bedrooms).
- Discuss online citizenship and safety with your kids.
- Use parental controls such as those listed earlier.
- Teach your kids that sending and receiving nudes and other sexually explicit messages of minors, even between consenting kids, is illegal in most states. Kids could do jail time and need to register as sex offenders.
- Teach your kids that if they receive a nude or semi-nude photo of a minor, they should immediately delete it and not tell anyone about it. If they’re asked, they should say they received it, but immediately deleted it.
- Teach your kids that if they’re cyberbullied, they should take screenshot of the evidence, block and report the bully, tell a trusted adult, and inform the service provider.
- Teach your kids to think critically online, and how to evaluate media.
- Encourage media participation (creation and curation) versus consumption.