Parenting with Tech is Still Parenting


We got our dog a few years ago on Halloween. Named her Pumpkin. My daughter was 6-years-old, and immediately fell in love. I think that Pumpkin, our shelter mutt, is half German shepherd and half Muppet. She's a goofy, big dog.

We all take a short walk every morning where my daughter, Anna, watches me curb Pumpkin when another dog approaches, grab a poop bag from the stand if our dispenser is out, and give dog treats to encourage good behavior.

In the past, Anna's asked to hold Pumpkin's leash, and I stayed close since she's smaller than Pumpkin. I guided her awareness of the responsibility and gave advice when she needed it.

Recently, Anna asked to walk Pumpkin without me. I felt comfortable saying yes because for years, she watched me and absorbed and I had the opportunity to watch her and teach. 

The Model for Real Life Applies to Kids and Phones

Walking Pumpkin is just an example of what parenting experts call, "I Do, We Do, You Do" or "The Gradual Release Model." I walked the dog. We walked the dog. She walked the dog. A logical progression in this scenario, but it's important to also apply it to lessons that feel abstract---like technology. 

Think of a recent conversation you had with your kid about technology. Perhaps they want their first smartphone.

When we apply the Gradual Release Model, we realize that they're watching our behavior with our own phones. Yikes. More eye contact, less scrolling (for me at least).

When they get the smart phone, engage with them! Ask about what they like and why. Create a screentime contract. Send them a funny photo of your family's Muppet! There is literally no end to the interactions a smartphone can create between you and your kids.

Last, know that "You Do" is going to happen eventually. With a Pinwheel smartphone, you're still a guiding hand as you limit apps and monitor conversations. Eventually, you'll decide that they're ready to walk alone, because you modeled the right behavior and used the technology together for all those years.

Time to Apply it

This model can be applied to something as big as a new piece of technology to something as small as a new app. Print out the Gradual Release Model and pin it up on our vision board or refrigerator. When you glance at it, think of how many examples of this model you've already accomplished and consider how else you can apply it.