When children are provided with helpful boundaries and limits at home, they are far better equipped to learn at school.
Over-use affects the brain
If technology is managed poorly at home, there can be neurological implications for students.
Whenever we do anything pleasurable, our brain releases dopamine. When children are frequently playing technological games, they are constantly being rewarded, which in turn releases dopamine making the behaviour addictive.
This can be compounded by the reality that parents can fall into the trap of allowing excessive use of technology because when kids are on a device, they do not require parent’s attention. They are quiet and not causing a bother.
The approach to managing time on technology should be the same as any other interest or activity, proper balance and consideration of the most valuable use of technology. An hour spent passively viewing a mindless television show is very different to an hour spent creating a video or digital animation on an iPad. Using technology in a creative and social context is valuable for children of all ages; however, proper boundaries need to exist.
Set limits on the time spent
Time limits are not always effective due to the psychological flow children experience when using technology. Simply stating ‘your ten minutes is up’ can be meaningless, especially for younger children for whom time is an abstract concept. It can be more advantageous to set a limit based on the game or activity. It is also helpful to agree on the duration of play before commencing the activity and use a clock to stick to the agreed time.
It is also helpful for parents to give a warning signal that the time is almost up. It is also important for the child to take responsibility for the end of screen time. For example, the child can be responsible for turning off the television or putting the device away. By putting the locus of control in the child’s hands, they are managing the technology rather than technology managing them.
It is helpful for kids to engage in physical activity, outdoors play, between moving from a device to homework.
Causing Sleep disorders
Hand held devices are particularly problematic in causing sleep disorders. These devices emit blue light, which inhibits the body in creating melatonin. This accumulated sleep debt can significantly impact cognitive development. Therefore, it is important to limit screen time in the hour before going to sleep.
In addition, bedrooms should be tech-free zones. A family ought to agree on what, how, when, where and why technology can be used at home. It can be helpful to have a landing zone, which is essentially a bedtime location for devices. This can be used to do a technology roll call to ensure children do not use their devices throughout the night.
Multitasking is a nonsense
Children often accept the misnomer that it is effective and efficient to multi-task. However, neuroscientific research has demonstrated that the human brain cannot focus on more than one activity at a time. Rapidly switching between tasks may look like multi-tasking, but, in fact, results in continuous partial attention. Therefore, a critical skill parents can teach their children is to manage their attention. Children need to learn the skill of mono-tasking, focusing on one thing and seeing it through to completion.
Modelling helpful behaviours
It is critical that adults model helpful behaviour when it comes to the use of technology. Co-viewing is a useful strategy for parents to engage with their children as they play games, watch television or interact on social media. Children inherit digital behaviours and emulate what their parents are doing. Most kids feel that parents are on their devices too often and children feel unimportant when their parents are distracted by their phones. This demonstrates how vital it is for parents to model a balanced and positive use of technology to their children.
Adapted from e-Leading November 2015 (4). Researched and prepared for ACEL by Emma Clemens, Deputy Head of Primary, Emanuel School, Randwick, NSW