There’s no doubting technology is all around us. It’s accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We use it on the train, at work, at night and even when we go to bed. However, it hasn’t always been the case, and in just ten years technology’s role in our lives has escalated quickly.
As a new mum (my son is now one year old), I believe this can be both a gift and an incredibly scary thing. It means parents have to raise kids using devices that weren’t around when we were growing up. It means unchartered territory.
I was lucky enough recently to be invited to host a panel discussion that looked at addressing key parental concerns around the rise in device use in Australia, particularly with kids.
Now my son isn’t old enough yet, but I have to admit I have already started thinking about things such as ‘when the right time is to give kids a smartphone?’ ‘what is appropriate and responsible smartphone use?’ and ‘how can I ensure a healthy balance of device use with other activities?’ And all these questions I could pose to a panel of experts – perfect!
On the couch I had Jeremy Blackman, senior cyber safety specialist at the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation, Shelly Gorr, the cyber safety manager at Telstra, and Danielle O’Brien, a mother whose 14 year old son has a smartphone.
The conversation was really insightful, so I thought I’d share some of the most valuable take outs.
Have a central charging station where all phones live overnight
Not only will it mean your kids can’t go on their phones in their rooms until midnight, it will also mean you’re not doing it as well. This is a great way for setting guidelines, but also uniting the family on a set of rules, which leads me to…
Parents need to be role models
As much as parents think that because they’re adults they can go on their phones as much as they want, they need to think about the precedent that sets with kids. Parents are role models to their kids in everything they do.
Introduce tech into kids’ lives at a gradual pace
You wouldn’t push you kid in the deep end of the swimming pool in the hope they knew how to swim, so don’t do the same with giving kids a smartphone. Parents need to slowly introduce new things into their kids’ lives, so start with a mobile phone, or set time restrictions on when your kid can use their smartphone. Then, as they gradually mature and get used to life online, lift the restrictions.
Implement tech black-outs to keep kids active
Try setting aside a few hours each night were the whole family puts their phones away, or in the central charging spot mentioned above. This should be a time set aside to get kids to focus on homework, or family conversation.
These are just the best bits for me, but you may watch the video below and find something else more relevant to your situation.
Do you have any tips for managing a healthy tech/life balance at home? I’d love to hear more suggestions so I’m fully prepared by the time my son wants a phone!