The increase in usage of digital devices and applications can be seen as a progression but it can also have a negative impact when used inappropriately. Parents, like myself, often think of devices as a Pandora’s box and there are plenty of potential pitfalls when parenting in the digital era.
Little Day Out’s Interview with Carol Loi on Parenting in the Digital Era
We speak to Carol Loi, a digital literacy educator from Village Consultancy about navigating today’s digital landscape. She shares with us her thoughts, experiences as a parent and educator as well as advice to help our children navigate the digital world safely.
Little Day Out: Can you tell us more about yourself and how you became a digital literacy educator?
Carol: I served in the public service for over two decades before starting my own consultancy and training agency three years ago. My journey in the public sector helped me to understand various issues facing families; I learnt much through my stints in the Public Works Department, Ministry of National Development, Housing & Development Board, Economic Development Board, Ministry of Education & Info-Communications Media Development Agency.
In the past two decades, I had experienced how media & technology changed rapidly, and how that impacts families and children – both for good and bad. I took a leap of faith to leave the comfort of public service so as to be able to work more closely with educators, families, youth and children so that we can navigate confidently and thrive in the digital environment together.
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What is SG Village and Village Consultancy’s purpose?
The inspiration of Village Consultancy stems from the popular proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” I hope to bring various partners together – public, private and people sectors – to work in the best interest of children. I love to also bring generations together, facilitating family conversations amongst children, together with their parents and grandchildren, about how they can manage media and technology as a family.
As Singapore is a very connected nation, children also have greater exposure to cyber risks. How can we, as parents, help guide our children to navigate cyber space well?
Spend time to understand child development and how media impacts children from birth. Know when the key seasons of our children’s growing years are and how to help them to transit well. Be a healthy role model in using devices and navigating cyber space ourselves.
What kind of resources would you recommend, for example filters and apps, for parents to use to monitor mobile usage?
The best app is us parents! I would advocate mentorship over monitoring.
Build the inner compass of our children and anchor them well on values so that they are better able to make wise decisions. Build a strong relationship with our children, so that they feel safe coming to us to discuss things they see online that may confuse them or cause them anxiety or fear.
In terms of actual apps, there are lots of reviews available; take time to check what best meets your family’s needs. And remember that at some point of our children’s lives, they should have their own internal filters and monitoring app!
How do you nurture your own children in terms of digital intelligence?
I did my best to be a healthy role model and understand child development. I did my best to be intentional to show and talk to them about how to live life in wisdom, and that includes protecting our mealtimes to have quality conversations by setting boundaries such as not allowing our devices to come between our conversations.
I also decided not to let them have their own social media accounts till they were 13, which is the minimum age requirement for most social media platforms. (Except for Whatsapp, and we have a transparent policy that enables me to see their messages just as they can see mine if they want to, because we know that we have not done anything that we need to hide from one another.)
They did experience posting on social media, but we co-created the posts; they would craft a post (it is a kind of composition skills!) and I would go through with them, highlighting words, phrases or images that may need improvement and the reasons why.
We review our family media use and boundaries on a regular basis e.g. in the middle of the year and at the end of the year, sharing with one another our challenges and how we could help one another to improve. This site by the American Academy of Pediatrics provides a good family media plan for families’ customization.
The key is really about transparency – our strong bonds offline is reflected in our relationship online. My children follow me online, and they allow me to follow them – all their different accounts. We use that to look out for one another, encourage one another, and learn together. Media and technology can be used for family bonding too, and that helps in developing digital intelligence in our children and in ourselves.
If you would like to know more about workshops run by SG Village or resources to help you navigate your family’s digital journey, do follow the SG Village Facebook page.