The Digital Parent Trap

Should your kids avoid tech--or embrace it?

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That's why Jackson has pooled his school's limited resources to buy classroom computers and iPads as well as video games that encourage physical activity. Although he met with parental resistance at first ("Some were upset that we weren't teaching handwriting"), most moms and dads eventually came around. "We had a virtual Olympics where they came and utilized our virtual Wii and Xbox gyms," he says. "That really made them see the value."

None of this means kids deserve unfettered access to the gadget of their choice--especially if, as McGrath notes, they've already been caught abusing it. As with any childhood privilege, monitoring is key. But parents should keep an open mind about the benefits of tech fluency--and even, when possible, work with their kids to make it useful. As Sandra Calvert, director of the Children's Digital Media Center at Georgetown, puts it, "Kids are going to learn more engaging with adults on these media than using them independently."

That's Crandall's approach too. "When I was a kid, my dad helped me make dioramas," he says. "Now I help my kids edit their own videos. It's creativity, backed by technology."

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