5 things and parents

Five things most parents don’t know about kids and technology

5 things and parents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting is difficult. It always has been. Oprah Winfrey once said, “It is the toughest job in the world!” (When I am up feeding at 3am each morning I tend to agree). Parenting in the digital age…well that adds a whole new layer of complexities.

 

Did you know that we are actually the first generation of parents who are raising complete ‘digital natives’? The way you raise your child is vastly different to how you were raised. You really can’t draw on your own experiences growing up to guide you because you took books, not tablets, to school!

Our children are growing up with an avalanche of screens. Their daily lives are saturated with media.

 

And there’s the rub for parents. There is a technology tension facing modern parents. You want your child to be adept with technology but at the same time you don’t want your child having excessive screen time.

 

On one hand you want your child to learn how to use digital devices, as these will be part of their digital world that they will inherit. You don’t want them to fall behind. But, you are terrified at the prospect of handing over powerful and potentially addictive devices to your children.

 

Yes, believe it or not, I face the same dilemma too. Even as a children’s media researcher I often grapple with what/if/when/ my son uses technology. It isn’t easy.

 

However, like most things in life we tend to over-complicate things. That’s why I am here to help. I want to make it simple for you. I want to dispel some of the popular myths about children and technology. I want to ease your [unnecessary] parental guilt associated with young children using technology.

 

So what essential information do parents really need to know so that they feel confident (and not guilty) about handing over gadgets to their children?

 

1.    Don’t focus on HOW MUCH-

Yep, I said it. And no, it wasn’t a typo. For too long the focus has been on ‘screen-time limits’. We have prescribed specific amounts of time for screens. We have focused on ‘restricting’children’s screen-time. I am not suggesting open slather. And I am not suggesting that copious amounts of TV or video games are not harmful. [Excessive media use is unhealthy.] However, we miss a really critical factor if we simply focus on ‘how much’. WHAT a child watches is by far more important. Content is king. Is the video game age-appropriate? Does the game contain violent content? Is the TV show fast-paced? Are the music lyrics appropriate? Does the app encourage critical thinking or is it a drill-and-practice game?

 

 2.    Co-viewing helps (a fancy-smancy way of saying use media WITH your children)-

Coview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using media, whether it be playing a video game or watching TV with your child has been shown to have positive effects on a child’s learning, especially their language.

 

Now I acknowledge that it is not always possible to sit down and play the iPad or a video game with your child. There are times when I have to make an important call or settle a baby. But when possible really try and seize the moment and interact with your children when they are using technology. If not, simply asking your child questions about the app that they just used or the TV program they watched shows them that you are interested. It also stops them from becoming a ‘digital zombie’ where they sit mesmerized by a screen.

 

This advice comes with a warning: you may just like some of these TV shows or video games yourself OR you may suffer hours of self-torture as you find yourself humming the Sesame Street theme song throughout the day.

 

 3. Media is not TOXIC-

When designed appropriately and used intentionally technology can actually help children learn. We have ample research evidence that confirms this. Digital media can spark new ideas, provide children with access to new worlds and open up conversations not possible without technology. TV shows and DVDs can encourage new forms of play and apps can show children really abstract concepts in a lucid way [Check out The Human Body app as an example]. Technology really CAN ENHANCE learning! So breathe a sigh of relief. You are not necessarily harming your child if you hand them an iPad or allow them to watch TV.

4.    Don’t always believe the marketing claims-

There is an array of digital products marketed towards parents of children that claim they are ‘educational’. From Baby DVDs that claim to enhance brain development to Mozart CDs that purport to improve brain function to apps that will teach your baby to read or recognise letters or numbers. Yes babies now have a preschool curriculum (which I personally think is tragic). There is actually very little research that proves that many, if any, of these techno-products actually do improve learning. There is actually some research evidence that suggests that baby DVDs can actually have an adverse impact on language development. So don’t feel compelled to buy your child the latest, shiniest new techno-gadget just because it claims it will prepare your child for Harvard. Chances are it won’t and they will probably find more educational value in the box that the device came in.

 

5. WHEN children use technology is critical-

bedtime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We now have ample evidence to suggest that screen-media in the 90 minutes before bed has an adverse effect on children’s sleep patterns (and adults too). The brain needs screen-free time before bed. It needs to calm down. Digital devices need a bedtime too.

We also know that rapid-fire, fast-paced media (think cartoons or video games) before school has an adverse effect on children’s capacity to learn in a classroom. So be mindful about when you allow your child to use technology.

Tell me in the comments below, which of these five tid-bits of information provides you with the greatest relief? What would you like to know more about.

 

 

13 replies
  1. Kristy Corser
    Kristy Corser says:

    Thank you for your informative article on technology use and children. I am glad we are starting to see research that proves that technology does not rot our children’s brains. My 3 year old son loves Play School, a television show that has not changed its format in over 40 years (they are doing something right!). After each epsiode, he always wants to make something, build something, or cook something that he has seen on the show, all of this is developing his creativity. He loves to play Grandpa’s Workshop on a tablet, where he has learnt to spot the difference and recognise numbers and colours. WHAT they watch and play is very important and parental interaction is beneficial, but not needed every time (in other words, not to feel guilty when they are being independent with technology). Thanks again for your research on this topic, it helps us parents who are raising digital natives in preparing our children for their digital world.

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Hi Kristy,
      I am thrilled to hear that the article provided you with some reassurance. I know as a parent, that we often feel guilty or unsure about allowing young children to use technology. It is great to hear that your son not only loves watching Play School (so too does my three year old son) but also uses it as a stimulus for play. Too often we hear stories about the adverse and harmful effects of technology for young children. I feel it is important to also highlight the positive potential of technology.
      Thanks again for sharing your insight and perspective.
      Kristy

      Reply
  2. Carly Dircks
    Carly Dircks says:

    Great article Kristy. I strongly agree with your first point of not focusing on how much but more on the actual content. It’s so easy to get caught up in the most popular apps or media for kids without considering what they are actually viewing. Another point I agree with is limiting the time especially before bed and turning to an old fashioned book to read together so the brain has time to wind down too. Great article thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    Reply
  3. Every Chance to Learn
    Every Chance to Learn says:

    I am glad that you liked the article Carly. We do get side-tracked by the ‘how much’ question, rather than focusing on ‘what’ they are actually watching.

    Reply
  4. Kelly - Project Me
    Kelly - Project Me says:

    Great article. I’ll share it on our Project Me for Busy Mothers Facebook page.

    My boys are 14 and 11 and iPads / iPhones weren’t around when they were small which meant them AND ME just did other things – like play board games and card games. I never bought them any hand held devises and it was over my dead body that my husband got them a Wii for xmas when my oldest was 10.

    Sure enough, board games became less exciting and then when my main computer grew old and I got a new one, I started letting them go on Club Penguin, etc and then Minecraft kicked off and my 14 year old got Facebook and now we have two iPads and old iPhones that they play on too and I sometimes wonder how it’s come to this??

    I’m just so grateful they didn’t have it until they were older as I think a lot of childhood is going to be zapped by kids using screens as their entertainment instead of playing. together. That’s my MORE than 2 cents on the subject 😉

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Kelly, technology introduction is definitely a ‘slippery slope’. There is no doubt that these devices can be addictive (as adults we know how ‘compelled’ we feel to check our social media regularly). The brain is literally releasing ‘dopamine quirts’ when children do anything with technology that elicits a pleasurable response, be it achieving a goal in Minecraft or reaching a new level in a Wii game. Hence, why digital technologies become so enticing. This is why we need to teach children about how to manage digital devices.

      I agree that many children today are living like ‘digital zombies’. However, technology is here to stay. We need to find ways to leverage it to maximise how children can learn and develop, rather than hampering this. We need to teach children how to use technology in optimal ways. I agree wholeheartedly that today’s children MUST have off-screen experiences. It really is all about balance. Like food, when not used excessively and the right types are consumed, technology can help children learn. But too much or inappropriate choices can be harmful.

      Thanks Kelly for sharing the article.

      Reply
  5. Helen Butler
    Helen Butler says:

    Ooh great article Kristy!! I have a nearly 8 year old son who LOVES technology! He says we wants to be a game designer when he grows up and this week is spending three days at a workshop to learn all about 3D animation. Seeing him go each day and collecting him is showing me that he has a REAL passion for this and that I should be encouraging him. I tread a fine line between him spending time on technology and the need to get everything else done (homework, chores, after school activities etc).

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Thanks for your comment Helen. Rest assured that your son would certainly be developing a range of sophisticated thinking skills when gaming and designing 3D animation, such as problem-solving, predicting, evaluating etc. Isn’t is amazing that he can do this at 8 years of age?? There is ample research that confirms that gaming, when used for appropriate amounts of times and with age-appropriate content, can actually help young children learn. I agree, as a parent, it is sometimes very difficult to find ‘balance’ between on-screen and off-screen activities, especially with the alluring features and pervasiveness of technology.

      Reply
  6. Clare Greig
    Clare Greig says:

    I really support your work Kristy, it is essential that everyone is educated in this area. I also love that these tips help us understand that content and media is very positive in so many ways. It comes back to the old saying – everything in moderation doesn’t it.
    Yet there is definitely an addictive epidemic of screentime on the large.

    Thanks so much for the great tips.

    Clare

    Reply
  7. Jana
    Jana says:

    Great article Kristy.

    I particularly like your device bedtime! That’s pretty profound.

    When school goes back next week, 5.00pm is job time and time for ‘Device Bedtime!’…

    I limit their time, like you say. But mainly saying they have to brush their teeth and do all their morning jobs before TV or devices are allowed. That helps too. Making sure they care for themselves before they jump on.

    Jana :)

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Hi Jana,
      I am thrilled to hear that the article was helpful. I love the way that you are teaching your children how to manage media and not let it dictate their lives, from a young age. It sounds really straight forward but I bet there are lots of adults (myself included at times) who log in or jump onto technology before that have done their ‘most essential tasks’ for the day and brome side-tracked.
      Thanks again for your insight.
      Kristy

      Reply
  8. Pam
    Pam says:

    Hi Kristy! Fantastic post! All 5 points are great, and I especially like 1 and 2. I used to “co-view” more when my kids were younger, but I think I need to do it more (not less) now that they’re older.

    Thanks for some great food for thought!

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Hi Pam,
      Thanks for sharing your personal perspective. Co-viewing is essential, particularly with younger children. However, I still think it is important with older children- it forces them to think and more importantly interact. It stops that ‘zombie effect’ where they simply tune out. Technology can be a great way to engage older children or teenagers and build relationships with them, as you start to ‘talk their language’ when you are watching TV or playing a video game with them. It shows them that you are interested in them and what they do. Good luck. Let me know how it goes.
      Kristy

      Reply

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