In an increasingly digital world, parents and educators find themselves in uncharted waters.

To serve as a vital resource in this changing era, Spark & Stitch Institute works with schools, parents and other professionals to help all parties to be better equipped to understand and adjust.

They’re bringing their presentation to Valley City on Wednesday, November 6th, where Erin Walsh will host a free workshop entitled “iBrain: Learning in the Age of Distraction - What Science Tells Us About Growing Up Digital” from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Valley City Jr/Sr High School Theater.

Spark & Stitch Institute was created by Erin Walsh, her parents Dr. David and Monica Walsh and a tight team of others. The family has been committed to studying the powerful impact that technology has had on families and children since 1996, when Dr. David Walsh founded the National Institute on Media and the Family. Its mission, “maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of media’s impact on children’s health and development,” would grow to become even more important as the technological developments accelerated at an unprecedented pace through the late 1990s and into the 2000s, still doing so today.

Now, Spark & Stitch Institute is committed to studying the research of child development and using that knowledge to give parents information that gives them the power to better understand the impact of media and technology on youth.

Erin brings a unique style to her presentations, using her expertise, humor and personal experience to help inform and educate parents and guardians, as well as a look into the issue of technology and youngsters in a new way.  

One unique aspect of Erin’s approach is that she openly states that screens are not inherently good or bad. They are powerful. She doesn’t stand on the stage saying “don’t ever let your kids have screen time.” She highlights how powerful technology is, and wants parents to be aware of that power.

“The changes in technology have been rapid and widespread,” Amy Tichy, Extension Parent Educator with Barnes County Extension, says. “It’s worth pausing to consider the effects it is having, both positive and negative, and to equip families with information and strategies.”

When looking at the ever-evolving technology at our fingertips, it becomes important to view how the rest of our world changes with its presence, especially the effects it has on growing brains.

“This is a very common topic of concern for parents, regardless of the age of their child,” she says. “Whether it’s a toddler being pacified with a cell phone in the grocery store aisle, a teen using a phone late at night or a parent’s guilt over their own time spent in front of a screen, it’s a topic that affects the majority of us.”

The workshop, Tichy explains, is a collaborative effort between various community organizations: Barnes County Extension, Valley City Public Schools, Barnes County Social Services, and Barnes County On-The-Move program at City-County Health. All of those organizations know that it is vital to be aware of the latest research available in addressing things like this.

“Parents are concerned with the addictive nature of technology and how screen time can affect relationships, attention spans, health, safety, education and more,” Tichy says. “While most agree that technology is here to stay and our kids need skills to navigate in a digital world, it’s difficult to know how to manage wisely.”

Read more in your Monday, November 4th Times-Record.

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