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Ten Commandments of Using Digital Media For Parents

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I'm still buzzing from the fantastic Digital Media & Learning Conference in Long Beach last week. I'll report back on some of the sessions I attended over the course of the week, but I wanted to kick it off with this inspirational talk by Dr. Elizabeth Losh.

Losh is director of academic programs at University of California, San Diego and is writing a book called Early Adopters: The Instructional Technology Movement and the Myth of the Digital Generation.

Parents are bombarded with messages from the media about digital media, she said. They're either made to fear that strangers will turn their children turning into monsters, or feel guilty that they're not spending enough money on educational gadgets. To that, I would add that mainstream media also lumps student-related digital media into one huge time-wasting, brain-zapping nemesis that must be fought and conquered, with little exploration of how and why the medium might actually feed the learning process.

To that end, here are Losh's 10 principles of digital learning for parents.


1) Play with your child. Dr. Spock served as the wise messenger for enjoying time with your child. We need his modern-day proxy to spread the same message with digital media, too.

2) Go low budget. Learning with digital media doesn’t have to be expensive. Not every digital game needs controllers. There are plenty of free software and educational sites that use media tools.

3) Bring digital politics to dinner table. Talk about digital neutrality, the integrity of one website over another, the value of information, and the power of freedom that comes with it.

4) Distrust ratings. Don't believe in systems of good and evil with numbers attached to them. Define what are your own issues and values. Ratings are more than just about sex and violence -- they're about who holds power.

5) Talk about advertising. And the huge role that advertising plays -- overt and subtle -- in the media that surrounds us.

6) Find a place for your computer. Not just a physical location, but a mindset for how and where you want to incorporate a computer into your life. And don't let anybody else define that for you.

7) Know the limits. Not all digital media games described as educational are really educational. Figure out what's important to you and set your family's own boundaries.

8) Wear your heart on your sleeve. Don't think of yourself only as a boundary keeper, but a loving, caring parent interested in your child's life.

9) Learn how to express yourself digitally. That's the language kids speak.

10) Reach outside your immediate community. Show your kids the importance of including all kinds of people in your life, across different communities and borders.