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Forming Healthy Digital Habits

 Raising kids in the digital age is not for the weak. The list of digital options parents need to manage and police are much longer than the list the average adult grew up with. Smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops … the list is quite impressive. For our convenience, these items are typically handheld and portable, suggesting we can choose when and where we want to use them. The reality is that screens and technology are everywhere we go, whether we bring them along or not. Our only real control over when, where, and what we want to access is over the screens in our homes or pockets. Because parents don’t always have total control of screen access and content, they should take special care to make sure they choose media carefully, setting healthy boundaries to instill their values and beliefs about technology and the role it should play in their children's lives. 

     Common Sense Media is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information and education about all things related to digital media for parents and schools. Their website provides free resources to help parents and schools make informed decisions regarding technology and media. Common Sense Media encourages and helps parents choose movies, games, TV shows, and apps that are most engaging for children. They encourage parents to rely on the 4 C’s when choosing digital media content for their children. 

Connection - Choose media content that connects with your child on a personal level. Content that engages, enlightens, inspires, or has a deep storyline and characters. Content that helps to grow their imagination and interest. 

Critical thinking - Look for digital media that takes a close look into topics, subjects, or skills that are aligned with the family’s values and priorities. They encourage us to consider games, quizzes, movies, and apps that ask participants to think through ethical dilemmas or situations. 

Creativity - Find content that encourages kids to create something new and unique. Art, music, a movie, or a story for instance. Pick content that allows kids to feel ownership in their learning and personal creations. 

Context - Teach kids from an early age that technology is connected to a bigger picture. Help them understand their online activities are connected to things outside of their family. Make sure to supervise children while they utilize technology. Ask them questions about what they're seeing and doing, and relate their experience to offline activities to extend learning.

Just like riding a bike, spending the night at a friend's house, or learning to walk home from school by yourself; teach kids that with independence comes responsibility and trust. Help children from an early age learn to make technology decisions that will keep them safe and in control of the experience they want to have.  When children are given consistently firm boundaries about media and technology, these digital tools can enhance our lives and help us to create, research, learn, and grow throughout our lives. 

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