Get to know Erin Walsh of Spark & Stitch Institute
Erin Walsh, co-founder of Spark & Stitch Institute, has built a reputation as one of the top resources for those looking to better understand child and adolescent development and cut through conflicting information about kids and technology. As a parent, speaker, educator and writer, Erin’s signature down-to-earth approach and sense of humor helps families and educators engage in complicated topics and leave feeling capable and motivated.
For nearly 20 years, she has worked alongside her father, Dr. David Walsh, to bring scientific research and relatable tips to families and educators across the country. In 2019, she co-founded Spark & Stitch Institute, an organization committed to sparking greater understanding of why kids need courage and connection to thrive and how to foster it in the digital age.
If it’s not obvious, Erin is a powerhouse in her field. We’re very excited to partner with Erin and Spark & Stitch Institute to offer a free series of webinars on parenting during the pandemic. In each session, Erin will translate research into practical strategies and offer tips for parents navigating this unique time.
Learn more about this exciting webinar series and register for the first seminar by visiting the Parenting During a Pandemic webpage.
Until then, we took some time to speak with Erin and get her thoughts on a few important questions.
You have built an impressive career on supporting parents and children, particularly in the area of building resilience and connections in the digital age. What drew you to this line of work?
When I was in high school, my dad started a non-profit called the National Institute on Media and the Family. Like any good teenager, I was quite resistant to screen time conversations and basically told him I wanted nothing to do with his work. I quickly realized though that digital technologies were getting increasingly powerful, and I wanted to be a part of the conversation about how to thrive in a world dominated by screens. Needless to say, I sheepishly told my dad in my early twenties that I had been wrong and we have been working together in the field ever since.
The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we interact with technology. What is the number one thing you want parents to know who are stressing out about their kids getting too much screen time?
The good news is that the pandemic is forcing us to go beyond the unhelpful question, “Is screen time good or bad for kids?” Instead we should be asking ourselves, “How do we keep learning and staying healthy and connected during this time?” Evaluating screen time through this lens allows us to ask: What kinds of digital habits and content are helping us do this? What digital habits or content are getting in the way? Those answers can help guide our screen time decisions, especially during these unprecedented times.
You talk about the importance of play in reducing stress and strengthening family connections (Which is something we at the museum can wholeheartedly get behind!). Why do you think this is such an important topic for parents to engage with right now?
As stress increases in kids’ lives, play becomes even more important. Sharing joy, having creative control, moving their bodies and synching interactions with others helps kids manage stress and build emotional regulation. The research is clear that far from being a frivolous distraction, play helps us learn, manage worry and connect with each other. Instead of reserving play for good times, it is essential to prioritize it during challenging times as well!
Learn more from Erin through our Parenting During a Pandemic webinar series. Register for the first session, “How to Handle Screen Time,” by clicking here.
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