Ask the Experts: Diana Graber

August 24, 2022

In the eighth installment of FOSI’s Ask the Expert Series, Erin McCowey interviewed Diana Graber on her thoughts surrounding back to school. Continue reading to find out how technology has changed classrooms since the pandemic, how your student can find tech & life balance, and what Diana is looking forward to this year. 

Diana Graber is the author of “Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology,” is the founder of Cyberwise and Cyber Civics, two sites dedicated to improving the digital literacy skills of adults and children.

What is one way classrooms have changed since the pandemic in regards to technology, and what is one piece of advice parents should know for each stage of schooling (elementary, middle, and high school)?

I think the pandemic helped make technology a much more seamless part of education. Both adults and students suddenly realized how much we needed it to stay in touch, deliver classes, do schoolwork, and so much more. Now that we are somewhat back to normal, hopefully we can continue to take advantage of the best parts of technology integration at every stage.

However, for elementary students, it is important to remember how important face to face interactions are in order to help them develop the social emotional skills they will need when they do spend more time online with peers and strangers. During middle school, students will naturally want to connect with their peers online via social media and more, so it is important for parents to have conversations with them about who they are connecting with and what they are doing, just to let them know they are available in case their kids encounter anything uncomfortable online. For high school students, I just really hope by this stage they have had the advantage of receiving some sort of digital literacy or media literacy education so that they will be discerning about the information they encounter online. If not, hopefully parents can help their older children understand how to be critical consumers of online information.

What do you recommend for parents of teenagers that are starting to be more independent with their own schedules? What needs to happen for an older child to balance learning, after-school activities, socializing, and down time, especially if those categories involve screens? 

I think parents of teens today have a huge challenge, because even adults have a hard time balancing all the things they have to do in life, especially when screens are so enticing. Unfortunately, the persuasive technologies within our devices—powerful algorithms, endless scrolling, notifications, and more—are so good at capturing and holding our attention, it makes it really difficult for teens to prioritize offline time. So a good place for parents to start is by talking with their teens about these persuasive technologies and how they work. Understanding these mechanisms can help teens (and their parents!) realize how important it is to exert agency over their devices and to understand that there is a big difference between using screens for learning and connection vs. entertainment. While both have their place, there are only so many hours in the day!

What are you optimistic about this year? 

Now that we have exited a couple of years of relying on our screens for everything from school to ordering food, I think almost all of us appreciate the value of face to face connection more than ever. But also, I believe the pandemic has given us a better appreciation about how tech can augment and improve our lives when used in positive and productive ways.

I’m generally optimistic about the future as we are beginning to see more and more schools teaching digital literacy. Including this important topic in a child’s education is so important. Not only will it help them know how to avoid the downsides of digital life—cyberbullying, online scams, plagiarism, sexting, etc.—it will also help them know how to get the best out of the technological tools of today and whatever comes tomorrow.

Written by

Erin McCowey

Erin McCowey is the Program Coordinator for the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) where she curates the Good Digital Parenting (GDP) program, supporting parents and educators as they navigate the digital world with their children and students. Erin coordinates resources and external contributions to GDP; publishing blogs, parenting resources, and parenting tools. In her work with GDP, she aims to boost the work of other experts in this space so that parents, educators, and other stakeholders are able to benefit from an overall greater digital experience. Erin contributes to FOSI’s events and communications practice, and regularly consults with member organizations on their parenting related resources.

Erin studied Political Science and International Studies at the University of Michigan, graduating in 2017. She joined FOSI as the Program Assistant in 2018 after previously serving as a Program Intern in the summer of 2016.