I recently hosted a PEP Food for Thought Event: Today’s Technology – Parenting Friend or Foe? The Parent Encouragement Program (PEP), a local powerhouse of a parenting education organization, has such a fresh approach to parenting, and this event was a perfect example. I went into the planning process assuming we’d talk about all of the fear parents have about IM’ing, texting, TV — all of the “screens” that dominate our kids’ lives and turn them into nasty drones when they get too heavy a dose. I had lots of great ideas about how to protect kids (passwords, limited access, etc.), and I’d love to blog about that more soon since it’s so top of mind for me and for many parents. But my focus today is on PEP’s fresh approach, the idea that we can actually use technology to connect and strengthen ties with our children. Here are some highlights from the great tips that PEP Leader and Mom Since 1991 (MS’91), Robbye Fox, shared with the group:

1. Set limits that reflect your family values.
2. Be present in your kids’ world– text your kids; IM them; play video games with them; communicate with them in their language!
3. Plan family YouTube nights.
4. Engage kids in positive, productive online projects like holiday cards, photo albums.
5. Define what screen time means – Robbye shared a term I think we can all relate to – “tele-visi-phone-er-netting” — it’s overwhelming to say the least!
6. Have written agreements with your kids – set guildelines in a cooperative fashion, as those are more likely to be followed. Robbye had a great tip — she posted a note near the computers that said, “Assume whatever you’re typing, another parent is reading.”
6. Continue to educate yourself on Internet safety & resources.

Robbye’s refreshing outlook that with a positive attitude, you can engage your kids in a productive way and be more present in their online life, is a great lesson. There are tons of great resources, more than one blog post — look for more great news & tips in this area in the weeks & months ahead.

We were treated to a delicious dinner by our local Thyme Out, a place that is like a playground for moms who love to customize and pre-prepare and eat restaurant-quality food without the kid unfriendliness of that setting. Talk about Food for Thought!

Do you have any creative ideas to share on how you’ve managed technology challenges in your house? Click “Leave a Comment” at the top of this post to add your tips.