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Program seeks to help parents navigate digital age
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A two-part program helping young parents navigate the waters of raising children in the digital age is scheduled for March 11 and March 18 at First Baptist Church of Gainesville.

“Technology has the capacity to improve lives in many ways,” the Rev. Bill Coates, senior pastor at First Baptist Church, said in a press release. “But society’s reliance on technology and constant desire to have the latest and greatest devices loaded up with the newest and most revolutionary applications is having adverse effects on our culture as a whole — but more specifically, and perhaps more detrimentally, on families.”

The results of a poll published last year by Nielsen, a global data analytics firm, found that 45 percent of children received their first cellphone between the ages of 10 and 12.

“The most predominant age when kids first got a mobile service plan was age 10 (22 percent), followed by 8 years old (16 percent) and ages 9 and 11 were tied at 15 percent,” the report concludes.

Parenting in a digital world  

What: Panel discussions on how technology impacts children’s emotional health and possible legal ramifications of teen social media use

When: 6 p.m. March 11 and 18

Where: Nix Youth Auditorium at First Baptist Church, 751 Green St., Gainesville

Note: The event is free and open to the public. Reservations for on-site childcare for children through fifth grade must be made by March 9 by contacting Associate Pastor Kara Wheeler at 770-534-7354 or by email at karawheeler.fbc@gmail.com.

Parents will have the opportunity to learn about boundaries, rules and acceptable usage of mobile and desktop technology at the panel discussions.

On March 11, the panel will focus on the physical and emotional effects of technology on children. Featured panelists include Sissy Elliott, who was named Gainesville City School System Teacher of the Year in 2017; Dr. Katie Herzog, a local pediatrician with The Longstreet Clinic; and psychologist Stacey Hoffman, Ph.D.

On March 18, a second panel will lead discussions about possible legal ramifications with social media use. Featured panelists include Ashley Corwin, lead social media investigator with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office; Kelley Robertson, senior assistant district attorney for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit in Gainesville; and Julie Battle, Ph.D., psychology chair at Brenau University.

Parents are invited to attend one or both nights moderated by Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard.  

“This panel discussion is meant to open the eyes of parents of all generations about the effects of technology on our children,” Woodard said. “Through the use of smartphones, people are always ‘on,’ and it is starting to have a pretty devastating impact on self-esteem and the ways people interact with one another. It is also affecting concentration levels and the ways that people, namely our children, process information.”

The panel will explore the downside of technology present in today’s classrooms, with a focus on how these tools can be distracting, limit attention spans and upend the development of social skills at an early age.

“There are plenty of ways parents and adults can help mitigate these harmful effects,” Woodard said. “Our panel discussion will not only touch on the effects, but also discuss some tips and tricks to wade the waters and find the right balance of technology in your family’s everyday life.”

Regional events