Leticia Barr started the blog Tech Savvy Mama about five years ago, after her mother-in-law offered a hand-me-down computer to Barr’s daughter, who was 4 at the time.
Barr, a Silver Spring, Md., mother of two, was torn.
Sure, a computer would offer many rich educational opportunities, but it also brought questions. Where would she and her husband put it? How would they monitor their daughter’s use? How much time in front of the computer would be too much?
Barr, at the time, was in charge of helping teachers find ways to integrate technology into their classrooms in Montgomery County (Md.) Schools. The family accepted the computer, and she decided to write about their experiences using technology with their children, who are now 9 and 6.
“I started thinking that if this is my background and I’m overwhelmed, what does the average parent do?” said Barr, who now blogs full time. “I started writing about things we knew we were using in schools with the students and sites that I loved.”
I recently spoke with Barr by phone about how parents can and should monitor their kids’ use of computers, televisions and electronic devices. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.
It may change a bit during the summer, and on weekends it’s a little bit more lax; they get up and can go on the computer and go on their favorite websites. They generally don’t spend a lot of time in front of the screen. I don’t know if it’s because it’s my job or we’re just busy.
One thing I heard at one of the panels I was speaking on recently was to treat it like you’re starting with your glass empty, and filling it with whatever is important to you as a family. Whatever you have left in your glass, that’s when you can do your screen time. Just as you have a healthy diet, it’s important to have a healthy diet related to media.
As they get older and they are using it for homework, you talk about what it means to be a good digital citizen. Tweens are all about mobile devices these days, e-readers or iPods. You need to teach them about being conscious about things like in-app purchases, looking at apps and talking about the things they are doing on there.
With teens, texting and driving is absolutely huge. It’s also really important that parents model that behavior. It’s really hypocritical if we tell kids not to text and drive and we’re picking up the phone to check e-mail.