Devorah Heitner researches what it’s like to be kid in 2015 — with access to the Internet, smart phones and a plethora of apps — and how the proliferation of smart devices affects contemporary family life in America.
Through her work researching “kids’ everyday life in digital media,” as she says in a talk at TEDxNaperville, she’s unearthed several big anxieties that kids face when navigating things like texting and social media, from the exhaustion of feeling obligated to always be contactable to the fear of hurting a friend’s feelings through a misinterpreted or misconstrued text.
As a parent, Heitner has seen how parents worry about their kids’ lives online and on devices: “When other parents find out that I research and teach about kids’ everyday life in digital media,” she says in her talk, “… parents tend to corner me [and] share their anxieties: ‘I’m concerned that our kids have no social skills. I’m concerned that my kid is addicted to games. I’m concerned that they’re double-screening and multitasking to the point that it’s not clear that they’ll ever be able to focus on anything.’”
This sort of worry is normal for parents, Heitner says. But a surprising thing? Their kids are on often the same page, and want help navigating the tricky ups and downs of life online. As part of her work researching the digital lives of groups of 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds, Heitner asked students to determine the biggest issues they face as connected kids, and challenged them to come up with app-based solutions. Contrary to what many parents may have guessed, Heitner says, kids often included parent input in their apps, and even made apps designed for parents themselves.
Watch Heitner’s talk below to learn more about her research (and get a sneak peak of the kid-designed app prototypes):
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