Last week I wrote on the topic of managing screen time and technology at home without giving you any practical advice. I am sorry if you felt ripped off. However, I still believe that your investment in reading last week’s article is valuable so long as you considered carefully the two questions I posed:
What would it look like for your child/children to flourish?
What would it look like for your family to flourish?
Your answers to these questions will and should direct your parenting, even in the realm of devices and technology. It is important at this point to recognise what is at stake when it comes to young people and devices. Research is accumulating and indicating that there are links between increased screen time and the following negative outcomes for young people:
* Increased rates of depression, unhappiness and isolation
* Decreased participation in physical activity
* Decreased independence
* Greater prevalence and levels of anxiety
* Decrease in the quality of relationships and relational competencies
* Cognitive and developmental issues
(The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, 2017; Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2015; OECD, 2018)
These links are concerning and significant for us to consider because these outcomes are not likely those are conducive to your vision for your children and family. As such, we need to reflect on how we are currently using devices in our homes and I challenge you to consider another question as a type of audit for your current use of technology at home:
How are screens/technology currently used in your family in ways that might contribute or detract from your vision?
Hopefully you can see areas to improve and areas that are contributing already to your vision. If you can see one obvious area that needs correcting, make the change! Before I get to suggesting some very practical strategies, I would like to suggest two principles for the way we manage devices in our homes: good character and good relationships.
Now by character I mean to describe who someone is at their core – the attributes that make them up as a person. For example, to call someone kind is to acknowledge that that person when presented with the right context and conditions responds with kindness at the right time and in the right measure, consistently. Kindness is part of their character. I am certain that if you answered the questions about your vision for your children that many of your hopes for them relate to their character; to the type of person they are at their core. I’m not talking about a ‘cookie cutter’ model of character or a ‘one size fits all’ character; I’m talking helping our kids grow in character and then living in the real world and online with integrity – with the same good character online as offline.
The reason this is so important is because when it comes to their behaviour online, we often take a rules based approach but such an approach is limited and short sighted – what we need to do is keep training young people to grow in character. There is no simple way to achieve this but there are two common approaches: a top down and a bottom up approach. A top down approach suggests that it is the things we love and value that determine our habits and behaviours. In contrast, a bottom up approach suggests that it is our habits and behaviours that determine what we love and value. I suggest that we do both; that we talk to our kids about what we love and value as good and that we train our kids to help them develop good habits. Talk to their minds and hearts and train their habits.
The second principle I suggest to you is good relationships. We want to be using or not using technology to help our kids build good relationships with us and with others. This means that in all our thinking about what to do or not do with technology, we want to ensure that we are encouraging communication, collaboration, support, openness, forgiveness, etc. This is important because a lot of the problems technology creates are relational – e.g. the parent who stops reading the book to their kid because their checking Facebook; the child who stays in their room on their screen and ignores those in their own home; the awful comment he writes to her which stops her from sleeping that night. The problems are often relational and so are the solutions – to help our kids see that what they do or don’t do with screens affects relationships.
Having suggested the principles of good character and good relationships, I now (finally) turn to suggest some practical strategies that you may want to adopt in your home to manage devices. There is no shortage of resources available online and I have listed a few helpful resources at the bottom of this article which I found helpful. Based on my reading, here are several effective strategies you might want to try:
* Delay the use of screens or decrease the amount of time used on screens
* Fill life with good alternatives to screens (instruments, books, conversations, etc)
* Shape environments to help form good habits; make good things visible and easy to get to and make devices invisible and hard to get to (e.g. put devices away and out of sight but leave the guitar on its stand ready to be played)
* Give clear expectations about technology (one way to do this is to develop a device agreement before giving a child device – I used Common Sense Media and eSafety as a resource to develop my own)
* Limit and control access (you can do this in a variety of ways and it will take a significant amount of effort and time, and it will eventually fail – kids will find a way around if they want to)
* Progressively release (monitor and control your child’s use of devices closely when they are young and slowly withdraw this supervision as they mature/grow in character)
* Use devices for collaboration and creativity as much as possible rather than consumption (devices can be used for such great things so do things that encourage creativity and collaboration; character and relationships)
As I reflect on my own parenting and my vision for my family, I am struck by both the significant role I play in shaping my kids, as well as my lack of power to bring about the good things I desire for them. At this point I am extremely thankful to know a God who is sovereign, loves my kids and has a plan for them that is far better than my own. I hope you also can find peace in that knowledge and these articles have been of some help to you as parents.
Mr Chris Smith
Dean of Students 7-9
Baxter, M. Y. J. (2016). 5. Australian children’s screen time and participation in extracurricular activities. Retrieved from https://growingupinaustralia.gov.au/research-findings/annual-statistical-report-2015/australian-childrens-screen-time-and-participation-extracurricular
Crouch, A. (2017). The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps For Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
Newport, C. (2019). Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. UK: Penguin.
Rhodes, D. A. (2017). Screen time and kids: What’s happening in our homes. Retrieved from The Royal Children’s Hopsital Melbourne Poll: http://www.rchpoll.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ACHP-Poll7_Detailed-Report-June21.pdf
Some helpful resources:
eSmart website – https://www.esmart.org.au/
eSafety website – https://www.esafety.gov.au/
The CS Lewis Advanced Learning program spent Term One completing an escape room challenge. Students were placed in teams and had seven weeks to design a physical escape room. This included creating a story with a mission, designing, and creating the puzzles and creating props. Each team was provided with a variety of combination locks, invisible ink, and UV flashlights – the rest was up to them!
After a term of planning, the students thoroughly enjoyed trying to solve the other team’s challenges in Weeks 1 and 2. The challenges involved escaping from trains, sheds, World War One bunkers, science labs, asylums and banks! A variety of puzzles were made and incorporated ciphers, binary code, morse code and riddles. Some students did a terrific job designing complex puzzles that fitted the design of the room and the mission.
The CS Lewis Program is for advanced learners in High School to develop critical thinking, future and problem-solving skills. There are currently thirty-seven students from Years 7-10 students in the program.
Miss Catherine Smith
Advanced Learning Coordinator