Pandemic parenting

Devorah Heitner, author of “Screenwise, Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in the Their Digital World” and expert in young people’s relationships with digital media and technology, will be the guest speaker at Thursday’s Telluride Education Foundation event at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom. (Courtesy photo) 

Parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic can be tough, especially for those with children balancing schoolwork and social life online. The Telluride Education Foundation aims to help parents navigate the challenges of an all-digital world with its next free “Pandemic Parenting” event Thursday at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom. Titled “Helping Our Kids Thrive in Their Digital World” the guest speaker Devorah Heitner, is the author of “Screenwise, Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in the Their Digital World” and an expert in young people’s relationships with digital media and technology. 

“Telluride Education Foundation’s Film & Speaker Series was put on hold last spring due to COVID-19. One year later we are still dealing with COVID, which prevents gatherings, however, today people are more adept at Zoom events and we feel this is a very important topic to bring to the Telluride community,” foundation president Toni Nash said. 

The talk will focus on teaching children how to self-regulate their screen time, how to help students through a virtual school day, and deciding what digital platforms and apps are appropriate for students of all ages. Nash explained that parents are asking for help in those areas, according to the schools, and the foundation featuring a speaker like Heitner will provide much needed assistance. 

“Sara Baffoe, Telluride School District middle school counselor, confirmed that families are in need of parenting tools, strategies and support for remote learning,” Nash said. “The foundation’s mission of promoting social and emotional well-being led us to bringing in an expert speaker to shed light on helping parents set boundaries with technology while social distancing, adjusting to the new ‘normal,’ which isn't normal, helping children know how to self-regulate technology use, navigating screen time debates in the household, adjusting with everyone home 24/7, and kid's use of screen time to connect with friends, be social and play. Technology is a necessity in our current circumstances, but how do we create balance and support our kids need to connect, even if it is through a screen?”

Heitner has written about the issue of children and screen time for several publications, including the Washington Post. In a piece titled “Should you let your kid get that app? Here’s how to set boundaries during social distancing,” she shares tips and reasons for parents to monitor their children’s digital experiences.  

“Having clear criteria and a decision-making process is a good idea, in general. But in today’s new reality, it has become even more important. Let go of the judgment of other parents or your own internal guilt about the amount of screen time, and focus on the quality of the experiences that different applications and games make available,” she wrote. 

For more information about Heitner and her work, visit raisingdigitalnatives.com.

Though the speaker series is resuming, the foundation has been provide tools and information for parents and students throughout the pandemic, Nash said. 

“TEF has funded innovative programs for students this year that allow kid's to ‘build your own computer at home,’ engage in outdoor activities like Nordic skiing, ice skating or sledding, and music software for remote learning of music at home,” she said. 

One of the organization’s biggest efforts has been the Telluride Compassion Campaign, which was launched in October as a way to support district staff during a year that has included state budget cuts. 

“What the school is doing to stay open and provide a safe environment for students and staff is nothing short of Herculean,” Mary Lynne Chambers, district facilities coordinator, said when the campaign was first launched. “And that goes for everyone from the kitchen staff, who are cooking and then preparing bagged versions of hot lunches for everyone; to the finance office who are conducting business, but also delivering those meals to TES and TIS classrooms; to all the parent volunteers who are helping us open the school on time each morning and helping to manage the outdoor eating facility; to operations crew who in addition to the normal maintenance requests are faced with countless classroom accommodations, working with consultants to assure a safe work and school environment, tent constructions, constant refills of disinfectants, the list goes on; to special IT requests; and, of course, the untold pressures on the teachers and principals and administrators. So to say that every employee here is enduring tremendous stress, mostly with a smile, is an understatement.”

For more information about the campaign and foundation, visit tellurideeducation.org/tcc