Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Thanks for checking in with us today! As yet another part of our ongoing interview series, we are excited to share our sit-down with Author Kyla Cullinane, who wrote the award-winning book Clicker the Cat! Kyla is a former award-winning TV news anchor who has always had a strong interest in technology and its impact on relationships. Read the full interview below!
MCA: Kyla, it’s so wonderful to be talking with you today! Can you start by telling me a little more about Clicker the Cat’s origins and what inspired you to write it?
Kyla: Once I had children, I realized that screens were going to play a prominent role in our lives so I did what any good journalist would do—I started researching! I scoured the Internet, talked to former professors, examined the research and looked for best practices. That’s the challenge with technology; it is always changing so the advice is fluid. As a parent, that can be frustrating. How much screen time is enough? How can I keep my children safe online? How do I figure out if an app is any good for my children? How do I handle social media with my children?
From my research, I determined that there is no one size fits all answer. It boils down to moderation and figuring out what is right for you and your child. Some kids will do fine with one hour of screen time a day while others melt down and throw fits when you threaten to take away their devices, no matter how long they have played. That’s why I wrote the Clicker series. I wanted to give parents a tool to talk with their children about creating good electronic habits and finding balance with screen time and other activities.
MCA: As you put it, “there is no one size fits all answer”. Isn’t that the case with most questions we have in parenting? So, what do you think some of the common issues are that arise with technology usage?
Kyla: I rely heavily on technology for education, and entertainment. Screens are ubiquitous. That’s why I had to learn to self regulate and what I want to teach my children. I’ve seen first hand how can technology can be useful by helping us connect and learn new things. However, technology overuse can have negative impacts on our relationships, health, and general well being. Overuse of devices can negatively impact sleep, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Research has shown as device use increases, so does the risk of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and ADHD. Overuse can also lead to physical problems if children become too sedentary. Studies suggest there is a direct connection between electronic overuse and children’s attention, anxiety, behavior issues and general mood.
MCA: So, based off of what you’ve said, Clicker the Cat is just part of a series! How does this first book fit into the larger scope of what you have already done and what you are working on in the future?
Kyla: I have written 4 rhyming picture books, along with a coloring and activity book, designed for kids in preschool through second grade. My books can be read at bedtime, with a parent, or as part of a digital citizenship curriculum. Each of the books has a section at the end designed to for parents or teachers. I cover the best practices from available research and give practical tips to help parents teach their children how to create good electronic habits.
I’m honored and grateful the Mom’s Choice panel of judges selected my debut picture book, Clicker the Cat, to be listed as one of the best. My other books, Clicker Downloads an App, Clicker the Internet Detective and Clicker Goes Viral are available at www.clickerthecat.com. I’m working on my fifth book now which will cover cyberbullying.
MCA: Excellent! We can’t wait to see more. So, if you could ensure that parents and children who read Clicker the Cat took away just one thing from it, what would it be?
Kyla: I hope my books serve as a good starting point for families to discuss how they want to interact with screens. They are literally everywhere these days which is why figuring out how to self regulate is critical.
MCA: A great, and pertinent, point. What kind of feedback have you gotten from your audience? Clicker is such a great character!
Kyla: Students are loving my main characters, Clicker the Cat and Digi the dog. I’ve had the opportunity to read in classrooms across my state, and it’s fun to watch the students engage with my characters. The students are absorbing a valuable lesson that screens have a time and place. Technology is a tool, and we can decide how to use it. I get regular feedback from students, teachers, and librarians about how they think the book should be required reading. Often I hear that Clicker is a good reminder for parents to be vigilant and regulate what their children are doing and downloading on their devices.
MCA: As a mom, how do you regulate technology use in your own home?
Kyla: In my family, my young boys use technology in school and at home. They use their tablets and screens to learn piano, new math problems and coding. They also play video games and watch cartoons. Not all screen time is created equal in our family so we allow our boys to engage in educational programming daily. We’re not perfect by any means but we strive to find balance in our screen time.
Thanks to Kyla for taking the time to chat with us! You can check out Clicker the Cat and her other work here!