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Keeping up with the latest technology trends can be a challenge for parents. As soon as you get used to the camera on your new phone, your daughter insists on an even newer one because it can run the latest Facebook app!
And it’s not just the gadgets that are multiplying; what you can do with e-readers, smart phones, netbooks and other digital devices is ever-changing, too: communicating with sound and video; keeping up with friends and relatives regardless of location; playing games with hundreds if not thousands of other players; following the thoughts and opinions of people you’ve never met. The list is endless! At times, it can also feel confusing, especially when trying to raise well-balanced, healthy kids.
Although part of technology use is technical — knowing what button to push or what settings are needed — much more of it is developmental. Media habits and technology interests follow developmental needs. For example, in their quest for identity, teens are looking for ways to define who they are. Online spaces can be very useful in helping them do just that. Some websites are outlets for individual self-expression while others are meeting grounds of like-minded peers.
Adolescents, on the other hand, may be wrestling with ethics and or sorting out what it means to be part of a group vs. remaining loyal to a best friend. How they text and their online encounters will likely mirror these discoveries of right and wrong and social loyalties. And very young kids, because they’re just learning about basic behavior, can seem to have an limitless appetite for repetition. Watching an online video over and over again is their way of studying scripts and getting down how characters — and therefore people — are supposed to act.
Raising children is never going to be easy. But using technology to support your child’s development is a much better than being overwhelmed or intimidated by it.
I have had the privilege the past two summers to be a volunteer counselor at a camp for foster children. Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) is a weeklong camp designed to create positive memories for abused and neglected children. During the week of camp, each counselor is assigned a camper and a cabin. When campers arrive, they decorate their cabins and make it like their homes for a week. Every day the campers go swimming and boating at the local lake, play games at the campsite, and do crafts. Each night there are different activities; for example, Monday might be fishing for the boys and make-overs for the girls, and Tuesday might be a birthday party for everyone. Campers also perform in a talent show, play games at a carnival, and make s’mores at a bonfire.
Throughout the week, each camper experiences new activities. Most importantly, the staff offers love and compassion and demonstrates positive relationships that campers carry with them throughout their lives. It was such a great experience and the relationships we made with our campers will last a lifetime. Based on my positive experience at Royal Family Kids Camp, I encourage everyone to get involved! There are several ways to volunteer to help with the camp, such as: being a staff member or guide relief for the staff, cooking, cleaning up, or just donating to the camp will do so much! If you would like to help with camp, please go to the locator and mentor page to find a camp near you. If you would like to hear campers’ stories, you can go to the RFKC newsletter page and learn more about RFKC
The author of this article is Rechelle Patton, a junior from Salem studying social work at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
As screens become ever-present in our lives, especially ones that are small and portable, young children are spending more time playing digital games. Though it's not always possible to be engaged with your child when he's absorbed with a screen full of images and sounds, the greatest learning will take place when he’s interacting with you as well as the game.
Asking questions, giving him a chance to show you what he's mastered and letting him describe a game as he sees it are all ways to help him get the most out of his playtime. (Don't be surprised, by the way, if he sees a game quite differently than you do!)
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