When it comes to the back to school period, it has the same implications as New Years Resolutions for children – the opportunity to develop on positive new approaches to work, the promise to attend sport practice more regularly; it’s an aspirational time which is made all the more profound by a summer of relaxation and reflection on where to go next.
Bearing this in mind, it makes sense these ‘resolutions’ are carried over into your kid’s relationship with technology – although there are a lot of positive aspects to technology in terms of applications which can benefit kids and help them learn more intuitively, collaborate on projects together etc there are also a lot of negative aspects which need to be subject to some level of monitoring, scrutiny and, ultimately, a degree of gently applied control.
I caught up with Dr Anastasia Dedyukhina, founder of tech-life balance consultancy Consciously Digital and discussed why the use of technology is already impacting the development of our children.
It’s been demonstrated that excessively using your phone can decrease concentration – effectively the most successful apps are the ones which have created software which feeds on quick gratification (think likes or various recognitions for keeping the online conversation long by Snapchat). This isn’t great if you’re headed back to an institution which requires you to be focused a lot of the time, so although the phone is a quick gratification tool it will make your kids find homework and schoolwork increasingly difficult as the habits being formed through their phones will seem far more appealing and (obviously) easier!
The end point of this discussion is to equip you with some ideas which will help reign in some of the more addictive and damaging qualities of technology, without having to literally take the ‘no more phone’ approach – a healthier, less dependent relationship with your phone is something we all could do with, so these ideas are just applicable for the parent as it is for the child!
1) Lead By Example
“The most obvious way of creating a healthier environment for kids and tech is to realise that if you’re on your device all the time, it normalises it and the kids will follow your lead”, says Anastasia “This doesn’t mean you should get rid of your phone, but it means you limit your usage in front of your kids”.
2) Do You Need A Phone For What You’re Doing?
Phones can be terrifically useful and are reliable – reminders and alarms keep busy times structured and allow you and your kids to focus on other important things.
But when it comes to certain times of the day or activities, you would do well to consider whether your child really needs the phone – or whether they may benefit from not having a phone with them whilst they play with friends, or work on a project, says Dedyukhina.
If you and your child want to relax and chill, the phone isn’t needed for this – asking the questions as to whether you need your phone right now is something both you and your kids will benefit from.
3) Keep your devices outside of your bedroom and dining table
Keeping the phone outside of the bedroom will improve the quality of their sleep – why not make it fun for them and call it a ‘sunset’; time for the lights to go out?
When you do this, you can spin it to them in a way that makes it seem like a positive thing – the lights dim, you feel cosy, the worries of the world aren’t their concern any longer. Just a lovely, soothing sleep to reenergise before the next day.
“The App Sleep Town is a brilliant way of ‘gamifying’ the sleep experience” suggests Dr Dedyukhina – give it a try and watch how it engages children in seeing sleep as a way of helping something grow!
Try giving the device some time off around the dinner table too – this is the place where families interact with one another as people relax to tuck into supper.
4) Use blocking apps
If you ever tried to focus on something for 20 minutes while online, you know how hard it is. Simply relying on your willpower to stay focused is not an option, as your brain has already been wired through long-time use of devices to be distracted. If your kids use phones, make sure they have blocking apps enabled.
According to Dr Dedyukhina The best app out there at the moment is Forest which helps elongate attention span by associating it with a tree that grows as long as you spend away from your phone.
“Moment, Quality Time, Freedom, Antisocial, FocusON or browser extensions like RescueTime, Stayfocusd, LeechBlock also allow you to block access to all or some websites for a certain time” she says. “I personally enjoy Newsfeed Eradicator for Facebook that selectively blocks your newsfeed but leaves access to messenger, so you/your child can still talk to friends.”
See, we don’t want to stop them using tech, we want them to limit their time on tech so they can enjoy the rest of their life!
Isabelle, Kinfo founder.