Since attending the LeapFrog presentation, I've surfed the ConnectSafely.org web site a lot. Co-director Larry Magid has impeccable credentials on the topic of children and cyber-safety, as well as a friendly style that made you want to learn more.
During his presentation, Larry talked about all the research related to children and their virtual lives in a way that recognizes that the virtual world is here to stay. Usually experts say, "keep your kids focused on other things." Larry said something to the effect of, "It's here to stay, so learn to live with it."
He did stress the importance of balancing screen time with real life interactions with actual human beings. At one point he said, "When we talk about screen time, we're talking about all screens, including those from our sponsor, LeapFrog." The LeapFrog representatives smiled politely, but the statement did resonate with the mommy bloggers in attendance.
In our house, a screen is a screen. A television, computer or LeapFrog screen all carry the same weight in the balance of screen time and real time.
Unlike us, the girls will grow up with a virtual world as part of their real world. In our school district, kindergarten classes spend time playing computer games as learning tools. By second grade, they are doing online research and basic PowerPoint presentations.
My favorite part of the ConnectSafely.org site is Safety Tips & Advice. I bookmarked it and reference it frequently. Whenever I read a news article or hear a radio story about something related to cyber-bullying or sexting or chat rooms, I look to the site to balance the media report.
I like having a source to balance the sensational reports. It's one way we can make sure the information we use to make decisions about the girls' virtual world. I realize they are still very young, but I also feel like we need to find as much information as possible now so we make the best decisions while we're still on the ground floor.