LA GRANGE – Devorah Heitner was teaching courses on kids and technology at Northwestern and DePaul universities when it hit her that she might have the wrong audience.
"I just realized that parents needed this information more than 18 to 22-year-old college students," Heitner said.
Heitner then started holding workshops and consulting schools and families on "Raising Your Digital Native," the title of an e-handbook she's writing. On Sept. 24, Heitner presented to parents at the La Grange Public Library. She addressed topics such as monitoring kids' technology use, preparing kids to have a cell phone and asking them about their expectations when they post a photo of themselves on Facebook.
Heitner, who has a doctorate in Media, Technology and Society from Northwestern, said that even if kids are more savvy with technology than their parents, they don't necessarily know what to do with it and how much is too much. She also said that despite the perception, parents are often more attached to technological devices than their kids.
"I think it's really important that parents are transparent with their kids and, [if they] lead by example, then hopefully kids are transparent with their parents," said Bill Lampert, a La Grange Park father who attended the presentation.
Below are a selection of topics and comments from Heitner's presentation:
• Heitner encouraged parents to do a mental inventory of the technology in their house and the devices their kids have access to throughout the day. Then, parents should determine when the technology provides a positive experience (like a family movie or video game night) and when it doesn't (such as the radio dominating a car-ride to school).
"If this particular moment were unplugged, would I be having a deeper conversation?" Heitner said.
• Before giving their kids cell phones, Heitner said parents need to make sure their kids learn how to make a call. She suggested having kids start to make calls a year before they get a cell phone.
"Have them call the pizza place and make a reservation," Heitner said. "Have them call the YMCA and find out what the pool hours are."
• Just because kids are spending hours a day on their phone or playing video games doesn't mean they're not connecting with each other, Heitner said.
Heitner, who lives in Chicago, said she loves to see kids on the 'L' train sharing headphones to listen to a song or watch a video.
"It's only too much if it keeps your child from doing other things," she said.
Learn more about Heitner's workshops and consulting on her website, www.raisingdigitalnatives.com.