Let's Talk About Education

How to talk about technology with your children?

May 18, 2021 - By Carlos Eduardo Pinho - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

As I was reading a technology article this past week, one thing came to mind with regards to how to approach our kids and understand how they use their tech. Do I talk about it enough with my child? This is something that even working with technology and knowing the risks and benefits of it, I still feel that it is never sufficient. Our EARJ students have 200 school days approximately, spending an average of 6.5 hours a day in class. That may seem like a lot, but it pales in comparison to time spent outside of school. In fact, over the course of a year, students are in school only 15% of their time.

Well, if they are in school for 15% of the time, but on their phones, and computers after class, here we are again as parents, wondering what our kids are doing. And many parents are afraid of approaching their children to ask what they are doing online. Just as parents reinforce their children’s studies on math, reading, and science, remember that technology with a digital citizenship point of view should also be approached.

But what to do? And where to start? It can be difficult for parents to talk to their children about technology. Parents may be afraid of technology and that fear may permeate their conversations.

According to Annabel Sheinberg, VP of learning and partnerships at Planned Parenthood, she spends a lot of time talking to parents and discussing difficult topics which also involves technology at times.

“Remember that when your child asks a question, that is a big compliment and a chance to connect,” Sheinberg says. “Always affirm the asker with a statement such as, ‘That’s a great question’ or ‘I’m glad you asked’ or ‘I’m sure lots of people wonder about that.”

But as a parent, you can’t always depend on your child asking the question, or even starting a
conversation involving technology. So here are some ways you can actually approach your child and try to start a conversation (separated by age groups):

Children 8 and under
Show me how you do that on (name of the device).
What is your favorite thing to do on (name of the device)?
What do you think will happen next in the (movie/show/game)?
How did it make you feel when you saw that on (movie/show/game)?
When I’m on my phone, how does it make you feel?
Can I have permission to share this (picture/video/quote) of yours?

Children ages 8-13

How would you feel if someone shared something private about you online without your permission?
What if I shared it?
What things are private to you? What things are public?
Will you be able to finish your homework on time to (play game/watch show)?

Who are your friends online?
Do your friends ever do things that make you feel uncomfortable online? If so, what are they?
Do you feel (name of caregiver) is on devices too much? If so, how could we be better?
“Use open-ended questions whenever possible,” Steinberg suggests. “These start with what, how, and why, rather than do or when.”

Teens ages 13-17
What do you think that (show/movie/meme) is trying to say? Why do you think it’s saying that?
What would you tell a friend who shared something online that probably should have been kept private?
If a friend told you that you shared something that should have been private or made them feel uncomfortable, how would you feel?
How does technology affect dating relationships?
What’s something positive you can do online today?
Who do you want to be online?

Still, according to Annabel, teens may have difficult questions. They are experiencing a time of transition and figuring out who they are in the world. “It’s OK if you don’t know the answers”, Steinberg says. “Just discuss the question and model how to find the answer online using safe and trustworthy websites.”

“Try to be collaborative and empathetic in your approach,” Steinberg says. “Engage in mutual problem solving when possible rather than using the ‘parent voice’. This will deepen your relationship and connection so that future conversations happen.”

Carlos Eduardo Pinho
Director of Educational Technology 

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