Q&A with Dr. Devorah Heitner

St. Vrain Valley Schools recently partnered with Dr. Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World and founder of Raising Digital Natives to host a presentation on the challenges and opportunities facing our students, parents, and educators around technology use. During the presentation, attendees were invited to submit questions for Dr. Heitner. While we were able to address some questions at the end of the presentation, limited time prevented us from addressing them all.

Below are the questions submitted along with responses created in partnership between Dr. Heitner and SVVSD District Technology Services.

Subscribe to Dr. Heitner’s blog, Raising Digital Natives, here.

Dr. Heitner is also offering an $85 discount for St. Vrain families to her Phonewise Boot Camp for Parents.


  1. What are the best, most effective ways to protect kids from exposure to harmful/graphic images while still allowing autonomy?
  2. What are tactics/words I can use to introduce new boundaries without “laying down the law”?
  3. What about kids who are good students? Is it ok to allowing more than 2 hours of screen time?
  4. How old should kids be when they get a phone? What do you think of the “Wait Until 8th Grade” movement?
  5. Is it okay to discuss screen safety and monitoring with other parents when your kids go over for a playdate? How do you suggest we approach this?
  6. We are more strict than our friend’s parents when it comes to tech.  How can we help our kids manage this with their peers?
  7. What are some good tips you have for device usage with consideration to the physiological effects screens can have on children’s bodies?
  8. How do we teach kids the gravity of what you post on social media and how it could affect your future (jobs, etc.)?
  9. What suggestions do you have for us for approaching difficult topics with our children (for example cyber-bullying, inappropriate content on social media, sexting)?
  10. What are some concrete, practical action plans for when you encounter problems with your kids and tech?
  11. What are your thoughts on kids daily spending time on devices at school? Do you believe there is still value in traditional texts and paper?
  12. I’d like to feel more confident on how to deal with a school device. My child says it’s “her” device and it’s a type of technology I’m not familiar with.
  13. What can I do to help my kids stop playing video games on iPads when they should be focused on something else?
  14. How do you manage the line between collaborative study and social time?
  15. Do skills like keeping a calendar transfer to a digital source?

  1. What are the best, most effective ways to protect kids from exposure to harmful/graphic images while still allowing autonomy?

Be sure to talk with kids about the kinds of content you don’t want them to look at and make sure they have access to good quality, offline information about important topics (like puberty, etc.) There are many tools out there to help filter internet content – some routers offer parental controls, and you can check with your internet provider, too. Apple’s Screen Time settings on iPads can also be set up with some internet controls.

But keep in mind that no filter is 100% effective, and there may be times when your child is on an unfiltered network. We can’t let the filter take the place of parenting and mentoring. At some point, your kid will come across content – either accidentally or because she’s curious –  and the conversation you have at this point will depend on the content, the age of your child, and your values.

2. What are tactics/words I can use to introduce new boundaries without “laying down the law”?

As a parent, it’s ok if you “lay down the law!”  You’ll find over time that boundaries may have to shift, depending on the age and temperament of your child.

3. What about kids who are good students? Is it ok to allowing more than 2 hours of screen time?

The American Academy of Pediatrics published updated guidelines  for media use by children. Their recommendations for school-age children include placing consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media.  They also recommended we ensure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. Most importantly, you know your children best and the amount of screen time you choose to allow for your kids should be based on your values, your children’s overall well-being, and the types of media use they are engaging in.

4. How old should kids be when they get a phone? What do you think of the “Wait Until 8th Grade” movement?

Getting a phone for your child is one of the biggest decisions you will make as a parent. Every family and every child is different, so there isn’t a particular age or grade that’s the perfect milestone for all kids. Here’s a blog post about this topic: Hold the Phone: 8 Signs Your Kid Isn’t Ready for a Phone

5. Is it okay to discuss screen safety and monitoring with other parents when your kids go over for a playdate? How do you suggest we approach this?

Each family is unique and approaches monitoring and mentoring differently. It can be hard not to feel judged by other parents for either being too strict or not strict enough. We encourage parents to speak more honestly and openly with each other about the challenges raising a digital native with genuine curiosity and empathy. You might break the ice by simply saying something like, “Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by all the technology our kids are surrounded with. Where do I start with the rules? How do you guys manage it at your house?”

6. We are more strict than our friend’s parents when it comes to tech.  How can we help our kids manage this with their peers?

This is a great question. Consider having conversations with your kids about what is allowed, what isn’t really allowed at home (say a particular game) but may be ok to play at a friend’s house, and what you definitely don’t want them to be doing. Then you can help your kid find some strategies for explaining or suggesting alternative activities when these challenges come up. Role-playing can be useful. And sometimes just letting your kid know he can say, “Oh I can’t play that game or my mom will kill me” – ideally with a dramatic eye roll – is OK, too.

7. What are some good tips you have for device usage with consideration to the physiological effects screens can have on children’s bodies?

The most well-researched negative effects of screen time is on sleep, both because of the exposure to blue-spectrum screen light, which throws off circadian rhythms, and overproduction of cortisol, the stress hormone. Because sleep deprivation is associated with all kinds of physical, emotional, and mental issues, many experts recommend that screens (both kids’ and parents’) be turned off at least an hour or two before bedtime and kept out of the bedroom.

Did you know that student iPads can use the Night Shift setting to adjust the colors of the display to the warmer end of the spectrum, making the display easier on eyes? Click here to learn more about Night Shift.

8. How do we teach kids the gravity of what you post on social media and how it could affect your future (jobs, etc.)?

While it’s important to be aware of our online presence through social media (digital footprint), we sometimes tend to focus on the downsides only. Instead, we should encourage kids to put their best work and best self out there, doing things they can be proud of. Doing an online search with your child 2-3 times a year to see what a public search can find is a great opportunity to make sure posts (either your kid’s or someone else’s) are not objectionable. You can also ask them if they have seen examples of kids posting things that do or don’t reflect positively on the subject and use that as a basis for conversation.

9. What suggestions do you have for us for approaching difficult topics with our children (for example cyber-bullying, inappropriate content on social media, sexting)?

For parents, these are some of the scariest, cringe-worthy topics to discuss with our children. Again, mentoring our kids will establish open, trusting communication that can help them navigate these issues. The best time to have these conversations is before your kids might be exposed to them. Here are some Tip Sheets from Common Sense Media to help parents have conversations with their children on Cyberbullying, Pornography, Social Media, and Sexting

10. What are some concrete, practical action plans for when you encounter problems with your kids and tech?

As adults, we tend to focus on preventing mistakes that can damage reputations or relationships. We should also mentor our kids on how to repair things, when possible. Here’s a blog post about this topic: Everyone Makes Mistakes: Teaching Kids How to Fix Things When Texting Goes Awry.

11. What are your thoughts on kids daily spending time on devices at school? Do you believe there is still value in traditional texts and paper?

There’s no question that access to tech has changed the look and feel of learning both at school and at home. Communication flow, access to data, collaboration, organization, creation tools, and opportunities for learning (and for distraction) are all different with access to a 1:1 device at school and and home. Choosing digital media or print media is more of a personal preference and may be based on the task and previous experiences.

Parents are often concerned about the increased screen time in their kids’ lives, but 1:1 does not mean your child will be engaged with a device for the entire school day. And measuring only time spent on screens might not be the most useful way to understand the ways in which we use technology. Instead, look at what your child is doing on screens. Is your child writing a reflection on a piece of literature? Researching a historical event? Collaborating with a team to create a group presentation?

If you and your child are curious about the amount of time your child is on the device (and what they’re doing), consider using the Screen Time tool on the iPad. Click here to learn more about Screen Time.

12. I’d like to feel more confident on how to deal with a school device. My child says it’s “her” device and it’s a type of technology I’m not familiar with.

Some parents are comfortable managing devices they purchase for home but may feel that school devices are the purview of the school. St. Vrain encourages parents to use the device alongside your child, asking questions and learning together. In fact, these rights are outlined in our Expectations & Commitments. And please reach out to your child’s school if you have specific questions about the device or device settings.

While your child may know more about the technology, we don’t want to mistake digital proficiency for good digital habits. Kids still need our mentorship and support around relationships, reputation, time management, and other skills.

13. What can I do to help my kids stop playing video games on iPads when they should be focused on something else?

Start with empathy and ask a lot of questions: What games are you playing? Why? What is going on when you decide to play games instead? Do you have some times when you play games and other times when you do not? What’s the difference?

Consider using the Screen Time tool on the iPad as a tool to help self-regulate. And this Family Tip Sheet from Common Sense Media offers some suggestions for helping our kids manage distractions.

14. How do you manage the line between collaborative study and social time?

Collaboration can enhance the learning experience as ideas flow back and forth, and many assignments today are collaborative. Talk to your child about her collaborative study and how she feels about it. And if study at home seems to be taking too much time, this is an opportunity to have a mentorship discussion with your child around managing time and distractions.

15. Do skills like keeping a calendar transfer to a digital source?

Whether you use a paper calendar or a digital calendar is really a personal choice, but a shared digital calendar can be a great way to help your child build his organizational skills!

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2019/04/15/qa-with-dr-devorah-heitner/

Building Digital Media Literacy Skills

Media literacy is a skill we work to build in students to develop good habits around finding authentic and credible sources.  Since media has now expanded to include all electronic or digital media, we talk about digital media literacy as a skill that “builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing and empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens” (NAMLE).

The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) has some great resources for parents, students and teachers to use when building digital media literacy skills.

One protocol in use to help support examining authenticity and credibility is the RAVEN protocol.

Want to give it a try? Take a look at this article from Psychology Today and apply the RAVEN protocol to test for credibility.

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2019/04/12/building-digital-media-literacy-skills/

Keeping Up With App Trends

New apps come and go with great frequency. There’s no shortage of social media, video-sharing, and homework-help apps that are popular at any given time. And while it’s nearly impossible to keep up with every new app, it’s still important to know the specifics of what new or up-and-coming apps you might see on your student’s device.

This Common Sense Media article describes some new popular apps to know about in 2019.  Common Sense Media regularly writes about new app trends and what you need to know about each app.  It is a great resource for keeping up with app trends with teens and tweens!

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2019/04/11/keeping-up-with-app-trends/

Using Screen Time Settings to Build Healthy Tech Habits

For those of us who have resolved to be more intentional about technology use, consider using the Screen Time settings on your iPad or other Apple devices. Screen Time is a relatively new feature from Apple that provides more information about the use of the device as well as specific parental controls that might be helpful.

Screen Time is a tool that is available for parents to enable on all district iPads.  Please contact your school if you need more information on getting started with Screen Time on your student’s district iPad.

This site describes how the features work and the information below gives some ideas for using these features.

Downtime

Capability: Allows you to select times when specific apps will be available screenshot of Screen Time settings

Ideas for Use:

  • Set times for tech use to come to an end – for example, an hour or two before bedtime and through the night.
  • Turn on Downtime during the school week, allowing only the apps necessary. Allow entertainment apps once your child has finished their family responsibilities.

Tip: To allow or disallow apps during Downtime, go to Always Allowed and select and deselect the apps you want or don’t want.

App Limits

Capability: Allows for time limits to be set for certain apps

Idea for Use: Invite your child to work with you to decide how much time they should be using the apps that cause them the most distraction or challenge.

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2019/02/21/using-screen-time-settings-to-build-healthy-tech-habits/

Family Movie Making

If you’re a child of the 80s, you may have fond memories of your parents lugging around a huge camcorder to record every event, milestone, and vacation and then watching those experiences together on the family television.

Now we have that powerful video making capacity at our fingertips. In SVVSD, we’re particularly excited about apps like iMovie and Clips available on district iPads to help students become their own storytellers.

We encourage you to embrace storytelling in your own home! Here are a few ideas for video-making opportunities in everyday experiences:

  • Favorite Dance Moves
    • Take videos of each family member doing their favorite dance moves and combine them into an awesome dance party movie!
  • Interviews with Each Other
    • Create a list of questions to ask each other and film the interviews. These make amazing gifts!
  • Book Talks
    • After a trip to the library, film your book recommendations to share with friends and family. What books would you recommend and why?
  • Sport Moves
    • Use options like Slow Motion or Time Lapse and film your child playing a game, kicking a ball, swinging a bat, doing a cartwheel, climbing, etc. Have your child reflect on their technique or improvements they want to make, or just celebrate the movement! Be brave–have your child film you performing a skill!

For more tips from the Family Adventure Project, click here!

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2019/02/20/family-movie-making/

css.php