As teacher I am often asked about whether young people and screen time and/or technology are a good combination. Some people think the two are like oil and water and they will never mix well. Others state that they would be lost without technology or some sort of screen time.

 

Currently there is a lot of research being undertaken (e.g. The Erickson CentreNAEYC, The Fred Rogers Centre, Macquarie University) trying to understand what is best practice when it comes to children or young people using technology. Every week researches are publishing new statistics to help us understand brain development and the influence of technology on children and young people’s minds. It is interesting that while all this study is going on there are some fundamental principles which stand out across the board. Here are three I thought worthy of mentioning:

 

KNOW WHAT IS ON THE SCREEN: Firstly, when giving a young person permission to use technology you need to know what they engaging or participating in. This is different to participating in. Would you let your child just watch absolutely anything on TV? Unlikely. You would want to know what they were watching. Technology is exactly the same. Find out the content of the game/app/site. Make sure you are happy with what they are doing or being asked to do.  This may seem like an unusual thing to write about, but ask yourself do you really know what your child is feasting upon? One things which constantly astounds me is the lack of knowledge parents have when it comes to game/app/site content – we must be vigilant, no ifs or butts. A simple rule I use is: Google it first, and I mean really Google it – similar practice to when we become a ‘google doctor’, look at the content e.g. level of violence, language and other content and ask yourself, will this add value to my young person’s life? If it doesn’t then help them, we work together to find an alternative. If it does then I celebrate their choice!

 

IS THE TECNOLOGY CREATING POSTIVE CHANGE: Secondly, technology is great when it has a real and meaningful purpose. This means technology for technology sake is not a good rule. I am sure you have people in your life who are seemingly addicted to their phone; it’s not good is it? When technology is wrapped tightly in a frame of reference, which is only about purposefulness and life-changing opportunities, screen time actually has a very powerful and positive outcome, increasing thinking and opportunity to connect with the world. Any screen time which doesn’t add value will simply be a conduit for poor behaviour, a lack of connection to those around them and an, ‘but I just want it’ sentiment being expressed. A simple rule I use is; monitor the type of behaviour and language coming from my young person after a technology session. I make my judgment from there. If positive change has occurred in their life e.g. they are excited to share new ideas, look for people to connect with or behave in a way which is positive then technology or screen time has been well spent.

 

MODERATION IS KEY: Screen time should be considered the same as everything else in life; with careful and considered moderation it has the potential to be great. Extremes never do us any good. Excessive behaviour, whether it is eating or exercise or work is not good for us. When these things are in moderation and are purposeful, we end up healthy, balanced and happy. 100% of parents who have come to talk with me about this issue and have applied the ‘moderation principle’ to their family’s technology life have had great success. Parents are happy because their families are once again connecting with each other. Children are happy because they are developing full and exciting relationships with the significant people in their lives. Yes, making this sort of change can seem like pulling teeth without anesthetic, but if you are consistent and deliberate you will eventually see the change you want – happy and balanced children.

 

SO HOW DO WE START? Simply put, look at your own behaviour, what are you modelling? It is not ok to say, ‘do what I say and not what I do”. Next, turn off your technology, go connect with your family members and tell them you love them and things are going to change for the better.

Step three…. (you won’t find it here, it can however be found through conversation with your family)