Iowa’s First Lady is in Washington, D.C. today (Wednesday) to kick off a national effort to find programs that help parents teach their kids to be savvy consumers of electronic media. Christie Vilsack says the literacy foundation she’s established and two other foundations are looking for four programs to highlight around the country.

“Because many parents, whether they’re low income parents or they don’t speak English as a first language or they’re middle class parents who’re afraid of where their kids can go on the technology…they are actually becoming a barrier to their own children in terms of accessing 21st century skills and using the technology effectively,” Vilsack says. She says parents need more information about electronic media and the latest technology so they can talk with their children about what their kids should and shouldn’t do because installing software on the home computer that bars access to pornographic sites, for example, isn’t enough.

“This is not at all about protecting children because I don’t believe we can,” Vilsack says. “I mean, you can protect very, very young children but once a child has access to a cell phone or access to a computer, they can go anywhere they want to go.”

Vilsack says some parents feel powerless in knowing what to do with the latest technology, and wind up forbidding their kids to use it. She says that’s detrimental to the kids because they must learn how to use technology in order to function in our high-tech society. Mrs. Vilsack had her blackberry and her lap top with her today in D.C.