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Devorah Heitner spoke to parents about dealing with their children’s access to technology. The presentation, offered twice last week, was the first in a series put on by the Farmington and Lakeville community education departments.

Speaker offers tips for parenting in the digital age

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news Farmington, 55024
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

These days, kids are exposed to much more of the world around them, thanks to the many technological devices available to them. Access to information is a lot different than it was when their parents were that age.

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But what hasn’t changed is that parents still have the option to put restrictions on when and how those devices are used.

That was the message Devorah Heitner brought to Boeckman Middle School last Friday, when she presented her Raising A Digital Citizen session to a room of about 50 parents.

Friday’s session was the second of two arranged to kick off the Farmington/Lakeville 2013-14 Parenting Series, presented by the community education departments from both school districts. The first session was held Thursday evening at Farmington High School.

Heitner invited parents to think about their days as a teen — back when television and a wall-mounted telephone were the two devices most used for sharing information. The group talked about restrictions parents imposed back then, like time limits on the telephone, how late calls could come in or be made, and whether parents ever listened in on calls.

Those were the restrictions that came along with the privilege of using those devices, she explained. In today’s society, kids have access to many more devices, but it’s still OK for parents to set up boundaries.

In fact, it’s a necessity.

“It’s important, because kids have a lot of connectivity, but not a lot of training wheels on how to use that connectivity,” she said.

She encouraged parents to ease their children in to using electronic devices, be it smartphones, video games or television shows. What is appropriate for a fourth grade student may not be appropriate for a kindergartener, and a high school junior’s habits will be different from those of a elementary student.

But parents should also set good examples on how to use equipment, she said. If a child sees her mother texting while driving, that child will think it’s alright to do the same when she starts driving.

“If you don’t want them to do it, then you don’t do it,” Heitner said.

When it comes to texting, Heitner told parents to use their own discretion about reading their child’s texts. The more important thing, she said, is to teach students that texting is not a replacement for face-to-face, verbal communication, especially when it comes to resolving conflict.

A lot of Heitner’s message came down to communication between parents and their children. Parents may not have grown up with all of the devices kids have access to, but they should still have a set of values to share with their students, and they should still be teaching their children to be responsible with those devices.

Heitner has a PhD in media/technology and society from Northwestern University.

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