By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Southborough – In an age where people are often glued to their electronic devices, Southborough Youth and Family Services (SYFS), the Southborough Public Library, the Friends of the Southborough Public Library, and Southborough Village Preschool will co-sponsor a free evening presentation Wednesday, Feb. 1, by digital-age specialist and author Devorah Heiner, who will speak about “Raising Digital Natives.”
According to Sarah Cassell, SYFS director, their agency often hears from parents who wonder how much screen time is too much or at what age they should get their child a cell phone.
“These are all legitimate concerns and ones that have social, emotional and health implications,” Cassell said. “We want parents to hear from someone who specializes in this field.”
Heiner’s focus is on empowering schools and parents to mentor youth in the digital age.
“Our hope,” Cassell said, “is that parents will feel supported knowing they are not in this struggle alone and get some helpful suggestions on how to manage challenges at home with their own digital natives.”
For many years, SYFS has been coordinating Southborough UnScheduled, an event to encourage schools, town departments, organizations, and families not to schedule any after-work and afterschool activities, but instead to allow time for families to spend time together enjoying each other’s company.
Cassell said that while the intention of Southborough UnScheduled was a good one, the agency saw a need to encourage this regularly and bring awareness to the role technology has on a family’s free time. A new, ongoing agency program, Southborough Unplugged, grew out of the unscheduled initiative.
“Our focus for the program this year,” Cassell said, “is to bring awareness to increasingly dependent and, at times, addictive relationships we have with our devices and the impact those devices have on our relationships and our overall wellbeing.”
At Southborough’s Heritage Day celebration during Columbus Day weekend, SYFS began a dialog with residents about unplugging by asking them to contribute to a community quilt comprised of drawings of people enjoying unplugged activities. The agency has amassed a variety of quilt square drawings and is working with a quilter to have the quilt completed before the end of the school year.
In November, the agency partnered with P. Brent Trottier Middle School and the Southborough Organization for Schools (SOS) to share the documentary “Screenagers” through several showings with teens and parents.
Heiner’s upcoming talk is geared to parents, grandparents, educators and those who work with kids or serve kids in their business and want to understand digital natives better. Her book, “Screenwise,” can be borrowed from the Southborough Public Library, and her blog can be viewed at www.raisingdigitalnatives.com/blog/.
For the remainder of the year, SYFS plans to work within the community to offer different technology-related challenges such as “social-media free weekend” or “text-free Tuesday.”
In the spring, the agency will sponsor a family event that continues to bring awareness to the digital native topic that will be tied in with Mental Health Awareness Month in May. The agency’s summer schedule features a summer concert series co-sponsored with the recreation department, which Cassell believes is the perfect opportunity for families to unplug.
“This is our first year doing Southborough Unplugged and there is room to evolve and grow each year,” Cassell said. “We are open to ideas and suggestions for upcoming seasons.”
Heiner’s presentation will be held Wednesday, Feb. 1, from 7- 8:30 p.m., at the Southborough Public Library, 25 Main St., in Southborough.