Health Check: parenting in a digital age
Education is a life long journey. Just ask Emily Wells of Golden Valley, who made her way to the Robbinsdale School District's Early Childhood Family Education Center on Tuesday for parenting classes.

"I know nothing about toddlers and babies, so when I had my own, I thought that this would be a great way to learn about their development and how to be a good parent," Wells said.

Wells came along with her 3-year-old son, Gregory. She's one of more than 800 people who take classes in New Hope on how to become better parents

"We facilitate classes that are parent/child interaction-based, and so that parents come with their children, they spend time together with their children in the children's classroom, and then the parents separate into parenting education time for the second half of the class," said Nicki Murphy, a licensed parent and family educator.

Learning proper parenting techniques will be relevant for people of any generation, but these days, seemingly everyone has a smart phone by their side.

"I have a hard time not checking my email and my texts when I hear the dinging and things like that," Wells said. "And I try really hard to put my phone in another room so I can just concentrate on my children."

She's not the only person who has trouble breaking free from her phone. In the past five years, parent educators have put a greater emphasis on how to parent in a digital age.

"The parents are coming in and saying, 'what do we do? Help us to figure out and navigate this with us,'" Murphy said.

It's an important topic because of the significance of face-to-face conversations. Parents and children shouldn't have to compete with technology for attention.

"That face to face interaction is everything," Murphy said. "This is kindergarten readiness. This is 21st century fluency. This is what we know our kids need to have when they grow up and to be successful members of a community."

While smart phones and tablets are great tools, parents need to set limits for themselves and their kids.

"As we get older, I think it's really important for us to realize what our own usage really is," Murphy said.

For Wells, she's come up with a strategy that, so far, has worked for her family.

"We really kept him from watching TV, and I think it's really helped because he loves reading," she said, referring to her 3-year-old. "He reads at least 20 books a day. And I think not watching TV has helped him be an avid reader."

For any parents interested in learning more about this topic, there's a conference at the university of St. Thomas on Saturday, April 22, called "Reclaiming Face to Face Talk in a Digital World." 

For more information, click here.

Delane Cleveland

April 18, 2017


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