Randi Zuckerberg’s tips on screen time and tech boundaries for kids

Randi Zuckerberg
Randi Zuckerberg’s new children’s book, “Dot,” is out now.
Credit: Provided

Since Randi Zuckerberg left Facebook in 2011, she’s started the media empire Dot Complicated, released a book by that name and, oh yeah, had a baby. Now, she’s expanding her philosophy of untangling our wired lives to kids, releasing the children’s book “Dot.” She’s also gearing up for her big Broadway debut in “Rock of Ages.” We catch up with her between rehearsals to talk parenting and managing screen time.

What made you want to write a children’s book?

I have a son who is almost 3, and everywhere I went – whether it was speaking at a professional business conference or at my son’s preschool – all the parents were talking about screen time. Parents want to make sure their kids are getting enough screen time to be competitive with other kids, but they didn’t want them to have too much. I thought, “Here I am writing a book about how tech has made our lives both so wonderful and complicated for adults, but it really starts much younger.”

That’s so true. Even 2-year-olds will try and swipe something like it’s an iPhone.

Absolutely! Kids absorb things so easily starting very young. As parents, we can make all these rules until we’re blue in the face, but I thought if there was a techie young child other kids could relate to going through fun adventures, maybe it would stick. And even though I have a son, I chose to make the main character a girl because I think we could really use more techie girl characters in pop culture, especially for young children.

How can parents strike the right balance with screen time? What is your philosophy?

There are a lot of really excellent apps out there that encourage creativity, love for music, love for reading and love for art. They can use tech in ways we could never imagine when we were young and I think that’s really positive in children’s lives. Where I start to get worrisome is when tech just replaces the television and becomes a passive medium.

Like sticking a child in front of an iPad to watch a video.

Right. But I also live in the real world and understand that it happens sometimes. I’ve had a night where it was just a really long day and I just wanted to have a conversation with my husband, so I gave my son a movie to watch on my iPad. As parents we already beat ourselves up too much, and tech is an area where you can really cut yourself some slack.

You’re also about to start performing on Broadway in “Rock of Ages.” How did that come about?

About a year ago, I was invited to give a talk at TEDxBroadway about how Broadway could embrace the digital media age. Fast-forward a year later, the “Rock of Ages” producers were thinking what they could do to celebrate their five-year anniversary on Broadway, and they thought it would be cool to celebrate their fans using digital and social media. They looked up my TED talk and decided they wanted to invite me to be a part of the show.

Are you nervous?

Very nervous. If you were to ask me when I was elementary school what my dream in life was, I would have said that it was my dream to sing on Broadway. I realized over the years how unrealistic the likelihood of that happening was, but your dreams come back to find you sometimes.

See Randi Zuckerberg on Broadway
March 14 – March 30
Helen Hayes Theatre
240 W. 44th St.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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