Digital Age Families

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lynn Schofield Clark, University of Denver associate professor in Media, Film, and Journalism Studies, director of the Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media and the author of The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age, talks about how parents can manage their children's (and their own) use of digital technology.


Lynn Schofield Clark

Comments [35]

As a 29 yro who grew up with the developement of texting, IM, and social media; I've noticed a converse discussion could be had regarding training parents who are new to smart phones, Facebook (and, unfortunately now dating) on electronic etiquette. Ex: My 31 yro brother and I never have phones out on the table while dining but at family dinner our mother is constantly texting/checking FB. We've had to sit our parents down and discuss FB and online dating profiles, keeping themselves and their personal information safe online and general etiquette regarding cell phone use and Facebook. Just wanted to point out this conversation goes both ways :)

Dec. 11 2012 11:54 AM
J in Brooklyn

Great topic, can we have a future conversation focusing on how to deal with younger children and this issue? Our 8 year old has just inherited his dads old iPhone to use as an iPad (no phone connection but wireless still), its been hugely addictive for him (minecraft mostly). Apparently many of his classmates also have their parents old iPhones - I'd like to know how other parents are dealing with this.

Dec. 11 2012 11:53 AM
MMaye from Bronx

I this this is a big under-reported story. And, it's not just about young people. Adults are also seriously unable to detach from their phones - even when they're in worship or in important conversations, at restaurants and in intimate situations.
There needs to be a big public awareness campaign about how addictions work.
It's not about moral failing so much. some of the comments here sound pretty judgmental. I think people start out thinking they're not doing anything harmful, and they are not aware of the danger of addiction.
This needs to be part of children's education early. Adults need to stop making light of addictions - and realize how deadly they can be.
Don't let the big money interests squelch or downplay this problem.
It's no different from gambling addictions. People need to be educated.

Dec. 11 2012 11:52 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Guess what MOM! Your kid does not "belong"to you just because it happened to be born in you womb, and you let it live. After puberty, you are irrelevant, and just a base of support until he or she can support him or herself. Moms, you don't "own" your kids. Dads lost them long ago, but moms still think they "own" them. You don't.

Dec. 11 2012 11:43 AM

It seems to me that these more tragic stories are more about addiction than monitering electronic device usage.

Dec. 11 2012 11:42 AM
Richard from Garfield, NJ

Please, how many parents that are complaining pay for the internet, pay for the games hardware and software.

Dec. 11 2012 11:40 AM

Bowildhax -- thanks for the list! is another great resource -- a wireless provider actually focused on kids and education.

Unfortunately APPLE products do not support any of these and some families are committed (for various logical reasons) to APPLE products only, ie iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch.

Anybody know about app timers or other parental tools for APPLE?

Dec. 11 2012 11:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Like it or not, the virtual world is going to replace the real world as the main "place" most of us are going to live and work in the not too distant future. For me, a good video game is the next best thing to heaven on earth, and when I die and if there is a heaven, I hope its got an Xbox 360 (or PS3) to pass eternity with :)

Dec. 11 2012 11:37 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Caller....You are 20 year old adult - that is a far cry from being 14.

Dec. 11 2012 11:36 AM
Mike from Tribeca

Parents can always take the example of the father of tennis doubles champs the Bryan brothers and just throw the X-Box into a ravine.

Dec. 11 2012 11:36 AM
onya from NYC

Of course people are so quick to blame the parent when kids and teens become addicted to the computer. It is a priveleged position to be in to be able to constantly 'monitor' their kid's internet use, especially when they are older, and especially when almost all of their schoolwork is now done on the computer. When I try to intervene with my teenager's overuse of the computer, she can always claim to be doing homework. She was once a very creative child, but now will spend hours and hours absorbed in facebook. I don't think internet addiction is as rare or 'extreme' a case as your guest suggests. I am waiting for internet addiction centers to open like they have in other countries.

Dec. 11 2012 11:34 AM
Ian Webster from NYC

I grew up in the beginning of the age of computer gaming. I was really lucky as my brother, father and I sat down in front of our favorite adventure game and took turns playing together. This went on for a few years and are some of my favorite memories with my family as a teenager. We discussed the problem solving aspects of the game, bounced ideas off each other, and got swept away in the adventure as a family. I still use the problem solving skills I learned from these games, and we still talk about some of the great times we had. In our case, technology was a great thing that brought us together.

Dec. 11 2012 11:33 AM
John A

Number one thing - on social media, there will be second IDs. Children will create multiple identities. There will be a safe ID and then a secret one for hidden activities.

Dec. 11 2012 11:33 AM
carolynblackburn from WaHi

Texting: Best thing that ever happened to adolescent/menopausal relations. Instead of shrieking at each other, we text. When we talk, our conversations are cordial. Amazing!

Dec. 11 2012 11:30 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I prefer "mindless" video games to mindless people any day. Thank God for video games.

Dec. 11 2012 11:30 AM
Hell's Kitchen from Manhattan

I really think it's more about instilled behavior, habits, and discipline in (college) kids, rather than the sheer availability of technology available to kids in college. That is, don't blame the medium. Kids who are likely to text their parents on the way out of class about that class/grade/experience are probably the same kind of kids who would have called their parents later that day anyway.

I went to college 1500 miles from home (Denver, as it happens), right as the Internet started to become available, and I had friends who lived thirty mintues away who would call or email their parents every night. I knew I had to solve my own problems, regardless of whether my parents were available by the latest technology. And that's still the case!

Dec. 11 2012 11:26 AM
Carmile Zaino from NYC

There is a movement call Log Out and Live. Yes, there is a web site,too.
It's based on over load of electronics - to take time with family and friends.
Play, laugh,read,sk.hike, dance,relax.etc -- remember those things? Connect again.

Dec. 11 2012 11:25 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

It's a curse, a curse young people get trapped in. The entire real world is out there, waiting for them to explore and instead, millions of them are sitting alone in their rooms, looking at computer screens, playing mindless video games.

And still, many people defend it.

Dec. 11 2012 11:25 AM

I do agree about kids being techno-tethered to their parents. I find that our kids are quick to call us or text us because they can, rather than figure out even the simplest issues on their own. We ask them to really think something out before automatically contacting us. We love them, but would like them to be able to move out and manage their lives some day!

Dec. 11 2012 11:25 AM

"His life was ruined by being on the computer..."

Really caller? Computers, esp. game environments, can be very immersive but it sound to me like you are kind of controlling...

Endorphine release - which happens a bunch during gaming - can make ANY BEHAVIOR addictive. Learning to control yourself is the counter-balancing behavior that needs to be learned and separates the children from the adults.

Dec. 11 2012 11:25 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Here's the reality: People are born individuals. Many do not like being in hierarchies, and all organizations, including the "family" are hierarchies. The computer, internet and particularly video games allow individuals to live in their own virtual world without having to answer to some arbitrarily hierarchical structure they were born or place into by circumstances. Online it does not matter what you look like. It does not matter if you are short or tall, ugly or beautiful, you are the individual as represented by your avatar. You don't have to conform to any social norms or strictures. You don't have to listen to your mother, or your boss, or your friends or coworkers. You are whatever you think you are online, and that is what makes it so liberating and frustrating at the same time.

Dec. 11 2012 11:24 AM
pliny from soho

WOW is addictive.

Dec. 11 2012 11:23 AM

iphone doesn't let you (technologically) monitor or control!

(see first comment on this page)

Dec. 11 2012 11:23 AM

Thank you caller Irene for sharing your story.

Dec. 11 2012 11:22 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Irene sounds like a "supportive parent"? As if that's what it takes, loving, supportive parents. Sometimes, no amount of support or love will help. The kids' addiction is so complete that it doesn't allow anything else in.

Dec. 11 2012 11:22 AM

are you staring at your phone at the playground, the parent pickup, walking, the sporting events, church, the dinner table, the bed?

you have just taught your kids that the phone is better and more interesting than those things.

Dec. 11 2012 11:21 AM

This woman is in la la land.

Dec. 11 2012 11:21 AM
Karen from NYC

My son is a college student at a local university. He lives at home. I, too, lived at home while attending college. Although he's at home, we spend lots of time running around, leading our lives, and use texts and e-mail to keep in touch, set up schedules, etc. We also exchange articles that interest us about topics that include natural foods, politics and his school work.

While it would have been great if we could have afforded a dorm or apartment for our son, we still would have used digital means to stay in touch. I grew up in a traditional, Mediterranean family, and disagree with the American view that 18-23 year-olds are adults who need to "break away" from home. They are still learning at that age how to be adults and, although we surely are not as "hands on" as we were when he was 12, our being in the loop has averted several really bad decisions on his part. Maybe more parent guidance would prevent more post-adolescent meltdowns. (He can always turn off his phone!)

Dec. 11 2012 11:21 AM

(notwithstanding all the advice from nonparents)

great educational ipad app "portal" for the prek and k set i recently discovered -- kindertown!

Dec. 11 2012 11:18 AM
john from office

My experience is that Ipods and other electronics take away from family time. Take a ride on the subway and see the mother with the head phones on, not engaging with the child. Rap music instead of the three Rs.

Dec. 11 2012 11:18 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

I hate to break it to you, Lynn, but the last person a kid will text is their parent. Esp. in college, where they are free to individuate. It's hard for me to imagine a kid running out of the classroom to text their folks instead of talking to their friends about tonight's party.

Dec. 11 2012 11:16 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

Simple solution to college kids over-using smartphones - make them pay for it themselves.

It seems one of the problems with today's parents is that they don't expect teenagers and college students to pay for their own gadgets. When I was in college - those "expensive phone calls" that your guest just spoke about - I paid for my own phone line. I also had PT jobs all throughout junior high, high school and college - and always was expected to pay for my own extras.

Today's parents need to back off and stop giving their kids everything.

Dec. 11 2012 11:14 AM
Penny from Downtown

Years ago I read that the reason one becomes addicted to TV is the constant rewriting of the pixils across the screen. Just as a cat cannot resist tracking movement because of its hunt wiring, we lock into the moving pixil. I'm sure I read this in either Vance Packard or McLuhan. Is this now a topic? It doesn't immediately google, but would relate to device addiction regardless of class.

Dec. 11 2012 11:14 AM
Bowildhax from Central NJ

There are many new tablet products out this season with parental controls and age appropriate games and website filter software. The Nabi tablet from Fuhu, the Meep from Toys R Us. If your child wants a screen for viewing videos or playing games, these are alternatives to iPods and iPads. Would expect that over time there will be more products in the Android, iOS and Google OS world as many schools are deploying iPads, and encouraging other screen based learning.

Dec. 11 2012 10:29 AM
Levin from Rich NJ Town

After Hurricane Sandy, I must admit I am embracing the familiar fret over First World Problems!

We are probably about to get our A student 11 year old daughter a cell. She asked for an ipod touch but an actual cell seems more useful. her friends and her would be texting on an app (kik) constantly if they could (she's already taken over the ipad).

we are strict about privilege -- not right -- to text; she can only fiddle w the ipad once work and chores are finished; and no devices in bedroom after bedtime. also must read just before bedtime (a real book). We also have an agreement for us to access all her activity if we want.

The 3 areas of focus and decision-making for parents, regarding tweens' and teens' phones, are content, time and location/monitoring. We assumed there were "apps for that", so we set out to purchase an iphone for the kid.

It turns out that while Androids have controls, iPhones do not! For example, can't set a "maximum screen time timer".
I couldn't believe it but here is a (very 2012) discussion on the matter:

Any ideas on *technical* parental controls on usage of iphones? Ratings, timers, blocking users, etc.

Have any parents out there found "socially acceptable" alternatives to the iPhone?

As we will only have this "pre-phone" moment once with this child, who is much smarter and more focused than us, I suppose this would be our optimum moment to negotiate. We are also setting the stage of course for her younger sibling.

Dec. 11 2012 10:06 AM

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