As part of a collaborative project between the University of Wisconsin, Drexel University, and the University of Oklahoma, College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) Professor Denise Agosto, PhD, PhD in Information Science student Gabrielle Salib and fellow researchers have identified top tips for parents and families to help maintain a healthy relationship with technology. Their research involved interviews with 51 parents and 24 professionals from three U.S. states (infographic available for download here [PDF]). The research team considered its findings in the context of family media use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Socialize with Friends!
Take care of your family’s mental health including your children’s need to socialize. This might mean an increase in online activities such as Facetime/Skype, online gaming with friends, text messaging, or talking on the phone. Think about your children’s friends who might not have access to the internet. Check your local public library website for access to free online materials such as e-books, audio books, music & movie streaming, and news sources; and programs such as virtual story times. Don't have a library card? Many libraries offer online registration.
Learn in Different Ways!
Don’t try to replicate school with educational apps or formal educational activities. This is an unusual time; your child might need you as a parent rather than as a teacher. Lots of learning happens through daily activities such as play, making things, informal conversations, and reading together.
Tech in Different Ways!
Understand that not all tech time is equal! Children might use technology to create media, socialize, play, research – or to do all of these things at once! Think about what your children are doing on screens rather than seeing all tech time as the same. This means that one-size-fits-all rules -- such as two hours of tech time per day -- aren’t particularly effective.
Tech together when possible. This could be playing videogames with siblings, taking photos or creating videos together, playing or talking online with friends and relatives, or sitting down and watching a movie together.
Try a Schedule!
Consider setting a schedule that helps meet your family's changing needs. Having a schedule that includes tech time as well as time away from technology for activities such as playing board games, doing creative projects, reading, chatting, and finding ways to be physically active may help families balance their new "home together" days.
Every Family and Every Child is Different!
Keep in mind that every family and every child is different. Try not to compare your family’s use to other families’ media use. Focus on making decisions that are appropriate for your family.
Resist the Guilt Trip!
There are many reasons parents and caregivers might feel guilty about parenting – additional tech time during a pandemic should not be one of them!
Helpful Resource: Commonsense Media
Professionals and parents/caregivers have found Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org) a useful “go to” source. It’s a comprehensive and credible site that includes reviews of movies, TV shows, books, apps and games as well as information about children and tech trends. There is a COVID-19 section with advice for parents/caregivers and suggestions for free, high-quality online learning resources.
We wish you and your families well in this time!
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, grant #LG-96-17-0220-17, Navigating Screens: Libraries as Community Hubs for Teaching Positive Screen Media Practices, navigatingscreens.wordpress.com.