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Challenge: Kids and Technology

Randi Zuckerberg’s 3 ‘rules of tech’ for her 2 young sons

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As a digital immigrant parent raising two small digital natives, I try to establish tech ground rules for my home. The hard part is keeping my husband and me adhering to those same rules.

According to child psychologist and Common Sense Media adviser Yalda T. Uhls, there are three types of parents in today’s digital landscape: The Head in the Sand Parent — who avoids all discussion of tech behavior; The Drone Parent — think Helicopter Parent but an updated, modern version; and Media Moms and Digital Dads — the responsible, thoughtful, and malleable parent who tries to be aware of the fact that tech is here to stay and sets boundaries for how it’s used in the home. My husband and I try to be the last of the three.

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So in our home we live by three rules of tech:

1) If a child is speaking to us while we are on a device, we narrate that we are finishing our work THEN put the phone down to have a discussion. We don’t want our boys growing up thinking they are less important than a smartphone.

2) Absolutely no phones, tablets, devices, etc. at the dinner table. Since my husband and I travel so much, having family time is such a treat that we try our hardest to keep our final meal of the day gadget-free. Breakfast, on the other hand, is an open playing field.

3) Rather than posting private family photos online to share with friends and family, instead create a private Dropbox folder or Facebook group just for people YOU CHOOSE to share with. This way all your precious, private family memories will stay within the confines of your own household, as opposed to posting to a broader, perhaps unknown, group of people who may not even know who you or your children are.

Another recommendation: Even if you’re not posting personal photos to the whole of Facebook, you can definitely find and create a parental soundboard and support network there. Find and follow mommy pages to get good advice, ‘like’ articles that you read to ensure that similar stories pop up in your news feeds, and post questions and concerns you may have about parenting to your friends and followers. You never know who’s gone through something similar!

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Actually if it weren’t for using Facebook as a sounding board we would’ve continued to misdiagnose our son’s hearing loss. Earlier this year Facebook surfaced an "On This Day Three Years Ago" post where I had listed all the words our oldest son (18 months at the time, now 5) was saying. Our youngest son was almost 20 months old then, and I had noticed that he wasn't speaking yet, not even "mama" or "dada." I would get advice from other parents saying, "Oh don't worry, my daughter didn't speak till she was three" or "He's the second child, he lets his brother talk for him.” So we held out, trusting the advice of others. Soon a nagging feeling started telling me that something was wrong. When I saw that throwback post on Facebook I decided to get him checked out. Turns out our little guy had hearing loss and needed a surgical procedure to relieve fluid and pressure in his ears. It was no wonder he wasn't talking — he couldn't hear anything! Thank you, Facebook!

Remember, as much of a sounding board that you can create with technology, you are truly the only expert when it comes to your child. So mommas, let your fingers do the talking when you need support, guidance, or a sense of relief but always listen to your gut. No one knows your child better than you!

"Dot.", a new original animated TV series based on Randi Zuckerberg’s picture book by the same name, premieres on Sprout on Oct. 22 at 11 a.m. ET.


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