This story was originally published in the Dartmouth College Fund’s spring 2014 issue of From the GREEN.
Sarita Yardi Schoenebeck ’02 recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study how kids use social media—and how parents can prepare them for life online. Currently an assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, the California native majored in computer engineering at Dartmouth, where she earned women’s tennis First Team All-Ivy honors three times. She earned a master’s from UC Berkeley and a PhD from Georgia Tech.
Schoenebeck ’02 spoke with From the GREEN about her work.
“We know to teach children to brush their teeth and eat healthfully, but parents really don’t know how to teach online behavior. I study whether parents’ anxieties match children’s actual online behaviors, and design applications that help the whole family set expectations for social media use.
“My advice to parents: Keep an open mind, and communicate with your children about technology. Focus on their behaviors, not the platform. Do they understand the impact of what they’re sharing? Teaching empathy is important. Join Instagram or Snapchat or other sites your kids use, to understand them. And develop a family technology plan. Everyone might agree not to use a cell phone at the dinner table—including Mom and Dad.
“I have a six-month-old, so I haven’t faced these concerns yet, but even now he watches when I’m on my laptop. Another research interest is what parents themselves are doing online—how are they moderating their own behavior?
“My favorite thing about Dartmouth was the people—friends I made in engineering and the tennis team absolutely transformed me in terms of showing me how to prioritize relationships and balance my career.”