Keep It Positive: Connecting with Your Kids in Their Digital World

Keep It Positive: Connecting with Your Kids in Their Digital World

Use technology to get closer to your kids, not alienate them

Research volunteer opportunities with your child to explore a career interest in medicine. Travel together virtually to the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. Host online trivia night with family in Chicago or Nicaragua. Commission your tween to build a Minecraft-inspired design in real life or a summer photo montage on Shutterfly.

Yes, set clear rules and limits to ensure safe, responsible media usage and prevent digital overdose. But instead of constant battle, also engage in your children's virtual reality and gently guide them towards connectional, educational and confidence-boosting pursuits online.

Digital family fun time (Really!) An article in Washington Parent notes how today's kids socialize through texting, gaming and social media engagement. While cutting it out could sever a lifeline, "setting limits around it can provide time to develop competency and creativity in other areas and technology can be used to strengthen family connections," it says. "Hold family video game tournaments or launch biweekly family YouTube contests to find the funniest cat videos. Use Facetime and Skype to video chat with distant family members or friends."

The article challenges parents to consider whether their children's online activity fosters healthy connection, courage and confidence. "Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents should focus less on how much time a child spends on digital media and more on the content of that media and the context in which they're using it."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time but also select and co-view media with your child  so they can use it to learn, be creative and share these experiences with the family. Talk with them about online citizenship and safety and visit Common Sense Media for guidance. "This includes treating others with respect online, avoiding cyberbullying and sexting, being wary of online solicitations, and safeguarding privacy."

Think outside the XBox: The Children's Trust article "Don't Fight Fortnite: Use It" discusses how to channel digital addiction to healthy real life connections and get their "creative, analytical and physical juices flowing." For example, host a Fortnight or Minecraft party but usher the junior gamers towards "the water gun or Nerf Blaster activities outdoors with teams and strategy based on the video game."

Search, teach and learn: Washington Parent notes the value of giving children a sense of capability --and confidence--as they look up a recipe for a family dinner, teach their parents how to make a playlist or watch a YouTube video to decorate a birthday cake. "How Your Child Can Use Technology to Enhance Creativity" offers a pastiche of resources for everything from writing a digital storybook to creating a family website. And send that encouraging "you can do it!" text to give them a confidence boost. Give your child a voice too and let them help set rules for family tech use.

Pick up that (cell) phone: With depression on the rise, a CNN article discusses the value of actually calling a friend to "to alleviate loneliness and help young people reconnect with others." Also, show kids by example how to actually power off that device. "Be a role model for healthy screen time and digital tech use," reminds Washington Parent. "Modeling positive non-electronic communication as much as possible also has an impact, including good old fashioned phone calls and in-person conversations, rather than texts or emails, to connect interpersonally."