The Purposeful Parent: A family plan for digital devices-‘Screen Smarts’

I am a digital immigrant.  I do my best to fit in and access the many benefits of the fast paced, ever changing technological world.  However, teenagers and tweens find the sound of my digital talk to be hilarious! Evidently I have a crazy accent!

I’m not alone. Parents approximately 35 years and older will be the very last generation to have limited exposure to technology during the formative years.   While it may always be a challenge to keep up with the mental dexterity of our children— as they grow and as we ‘age,’ parents of the future will be able to close the present social media gen-gap significantly.

Social media is here to stay.  For many parents, techno savvy or not, this realization is often accompanied by angst and trepidation. Folks have a variety of scary opinions on the subject:

  • Kids don’t play outside anymore because they are too busy with their smart phones!
  • The next generation won’t even know how to socialize in the REAL world.
  • Babies are becoming addicted to technology!
  • The digital world is dumbing down our children. They can’t even think for themselves.
  • Young people are self-absorbed! All they do is take selfies!
  • How can we keep our children safe from cyber-bullying, sexting and predators?

Okay! Ease up on that fear-based thinking, already!

Remember?  We can’t access higher level thinking and creativity while in a state of worry and woeful projection!  Plus, it will make us ill!

A Purposeful Parent is solution-oriented and we have some suggestions to help you get started today.

I am grateful to have come across an expert in ‘Screen Smart’ practices and am excited to be able to share a bit of her wisdom with you here.  Dr. Jodi Gold, author, psychiatrist and mother of three children published a fantastic guide entitled, Screen-Smart Parenting:  How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices.

Based on extensive research and experience as a medical practitioner, Dr. Gold provides guidelines to put parents at ease; she reminds us that this new age of technology holds great promise for our children, and as long as we are vigilant and stay connected we have nothing to fear.

As with all challenges in the home, parenting style is a key determinant for success.  The Authoritative Parent who values setting boundaries as well as making communication a priority will have the greatest chance for success in all endeavors.  (For more information on parenting styles see The Purposeful Parent:Child Expectations ( included is a nifty chart to make it easy to understand.)

 digital devices731 N. Jackson St, #405, Milwaukee  (414)765-0505

Dr. Gold provides a realistic and positive perspective emphasizing the many advantages of digital advancements, while stressing the importance of making a family plan.

As a parent of a millennial who did not have internet access until about age ten, most of our digital guidelines centered on use of the television.

We had two TVs and both were placed in what I would refer to as public areas. There were no TVs in any bedrooms.  This was not ‘fashionable’ at the time and was accompanied by some teenage rebuttal, but it aligned with our values and I held my ground. I also got an extra kick of validation working with dozens of students in my classes who were sleep deprived due to late night unsupervised television viewing.

We also tried to refrain from using the television for background noise and discussed the importance of having designated ‘quiet’ times during the day.

When smart phones became a part of our lives we agreed that we would not use them during meal time.  Phones were also left out on the kitchen counter at bedtime.  (This of course was when land-lines were still in use, so there was not a safety concern for us.)

As technology advanced with the introduction of Apps and Social Media, we had many discussions about being safe and limiting the amount and type of information we shared. And, all Apps, music or video purchases were done only with parental consent.  We also spent a lot of time discussing how we might distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate content.

Overall, our experience with technology from elementary school through high school was pretty uneventful, and I believe our daughter would agree that she benefited from her guided exposure to a variety of digital media.  She experienced a balanced and educated introduction to the digital world.

I share our experience not because the plan was perfect but because we had a plan—a plan based on our personal values and ethics.

Dr. Jodi Gold concurs that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution—

“I encourage you to rely on your own instincts and your intimate knowledge of your children. You know the values and customs of your family. Trust them to guide you.”  Jodi Gold

In the book ‘Screen Smarts for Parenting’ you will find sensible answers and recommendations for your child at their present age.  It is comprehensive, research based and well organized.  I learned of the author on a radio program and I highly recommend you check her out!

About the author

Kate MartinKate Martin has been a high school teacher for 27 years and retired from the Racine Unified School District in 2015. 

She taught students with special needs as well as those in general education. While working with hundreds of parents over the years, she discovered that there was a significant lack of resources and educational opportunities to help them navigate the many demands of parenting today. 

For this reason, in 2013 she founded The Purposeful Parent, offering workshops and resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers.  

Buy the Book by Kate Martin: The Best Thoughts To Think Five minutes Before Bed 

Visit my website: katemartinbestthoughts.com/purposeful-parent

Other articles by Kate Martin:

Back To School

Now I lay me down to sleep

Kindness is a two-way street

Child Expectations