According to children’s technology and development expert Dr Kristy Goodwin, if you worry about the amount of time your children spend staring at a small screen during school holidays you are not alone. Dr Kristy says many parents are concerned and confused. Deciding on the right amount of screen time and the appropriate level of access to touch-screen devices, mobile phones and video games – as well as issues of addiction and cyber-safety – are just some of the ‘digital dilemmas’ facing modern parents.
Dr Kristy says the amount of advice circulating for parents is overwhelming, contradictory and, more often than not, inaccurate. Author of Raising Your Child in a Digital World, Dr Kristy, has made it her mission to give parents peace of mind by arming them with facts, not fears about what young children really need to thrive in the digital world.
“However, rather than fearing or banning technology, we should aim to create healthy digital habits in our children. The technology is here to stay so we have to show our children healthy and helpful ways to use it so it doesn’t derail their development. Technology is changing the ways young children learn, develop and play. We can use the available research to leverage technology to meet children’s developmental needs, help them learn and minimise any potential harmful effects.”
“Here are a few things I say to parents about what children need to thrive in a digital age.
“The early years are vital for a child’s optimal development. Eighty percent of brain architecture is established before a child is 3 years old and 70 per cent of this development can be attributed to the experiences they encounter. Digital technologies are shaping this process.
“Developing brains and bodies need simple things. Also called ancestral parenting, the way our grandparents parented is an ideal model.
“Supporting healthy tech habits can involve:
- Being mindful about how we use technology with or around our children – they are watching and absorbing our digital habits (the scientific explanation is that kids have mirror neurons and are actually wired to imitate)!
- Ensuring that screen-time doesn’t interfere with children’s seven basic needs (especially their sleep, play, movement and relationships).
- Establishing boundaries around how, when and for how long technology can be used in your family by creating a ‘family media plan’ – this can be a formal, written document or simply a conversation about how technology will (and won’t) be used with our children.
- Set firm boundaries and use web-filtering software to limit what your child can access – there are increasing reports of young children (as young as 8 years) accessing and sharing pornography, violent and scary media.
- Balancing their screen-time with their green-time in nature is critical for their nervous system and their brain.”