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How You Handle Screen, Technology Time With Your Kids

Smartphones and tablets. You can't miss them, and your kids can't resist them. Even the smallest children — 40 percent of kids 8 years old and under — have used their parents' mobile devices, according to a survey out this week by the nonprofit Common Sense Media. This week, we're exploring the theme of raising digital natives, and you have already responded with many of your thoughts. A sample:

Amy Dunkle, a mom of four kids in their teens and early 20s, writes:

"Technology is marvelous — I love how my kids can keep in touch with each other and far flung family and friends. But, there are the obvious downsides. We (at least in our family) don't turn the car over to our kids at 16 without instruction and continual conversation about good choices and appropriate behavior. Same goes with technology. We have rules, expectations, values and beliefs, and we talk about issues on an ongoing basis. I don't understand why people are so surprised about kids not being able to write or communicate verbally because they text so much — this is what happens when left unsupervised and without direction. Parents need to parent."

Jamie Forbord is a stay-at-home mom in Minnesota. She writes of her older daughter:

"She is one of the top readers in her class, however what I feel is more important is her level of creativity and attention span. She and her sister can play for hours at a time and never complain about being bored. I wish all parents would just let their kids play and be kids. There will be plenty of time to use computers. I think screen time is simply the easy thing to do, not the right thing."

A young nanny also wrote us, with her observations about the families she's been watching over the years. She asked that we not use her name so she could speak freely about her employers:

"I have nannied for many families, and only one family has found a good system for 'screen time' for their kids. The family, interestingly enough, has a parent who works in mobile apps and technology. With an 8 and a 2 year old, the 8 year old has an allotted amount of iPad time each week for games. He gets about 15 minutes a day, I believe, but he can use it when he wants (and it can roll over). The result is, that HE self-regulates, understanding what his boundaries are, and choosing when he wants to interact with a game vs. when he wants to read a book or complete a puzzle.


"A different family, with one working parent and one non-working parent, seemed to have a complete handle on technology when I began work for them in June, but now it seems to have spun out of control — and the child is only 3. The most scary aspect of it for me, is the scream, sob, and whine that occurs when I remove technology from the 3 year old's hands (and that when I speak to her, she hardly has any idea that someone is addressing her). I fear that in just a few years, and potentially already, that she will be a complete slave to the device."

Our running conversation on kids and technology continues this week, with Steve Henn's Morning Edition story about how video games get inside your little one's minds, and Laura Sydell's upcoming piece on What kinds of questions do you have about raising this digitally native generation? Weigh in in the comments, email me or tweet us anytime.

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