The musings of an empathetic mum, head of Junior Campus, and global digital citizen. (aka Mrs V)
For many years I have observed, read about and experienced the Digital Age growing at a rapid pace. As most of you would be aware, I am a Mum to three beautiful kids, and the wife of a self-confessed ‘big kid’ who is a huge technology fan, a genuine life-long learner, and a Research Scientist who has worked in the fields of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Sensor Networks and many more.
I knew from the moment I met Phil that we would be moving headlong into the Digital Age throughout our life. It has been quite the journey trying to keep up with all of the latest tech changes and the newest gadgets that keep coming our way. It has been a blessing in many, many ways — and if I’m honest, a serious frustration in other ways. I also knew that our children would be exposed to a lot of technology as a result of Phil’s passion and love for the field. So I have made it my business to try to be open to learning about each new thing as it comes along.
You see, as a parent and educator, it doesn’t take long for you to realise that some things are just going to be. For example, if we wanted to, my husband and I could make a concerted effort to restrict, block and deny all attempts to access technology or digital platforms by our children. However, as an educator, I also know that when they come to school, they will still be surrounded by peers who will have access to these devices and play these games at home, as well as an education system that must embrace and educate our students for their future in the Digital Age. I guess what I am saying is that my children’s exposure to technology is going to happen one way or another.
So with that in mind, how do we parent our children in a technological age when each one of us carries a different understanding of, confidence with, and desire to learn about the Digital Age? There is no denying that the world we live in — and that our children will inherit — is going to be extremely heavy in technological influences and advances that will affect work place practices, job creation and replacement, and their leisure time activities. So to begin, I have included some tips for you to consider as we continue to navigate this journey together.
Now I need to be clear, I am not a Digital Age guru, a tech-wiz or a gaming expert. What I am is an empathetic mum, teacher, leader and global citizen who believes that together, in community, we can discuss, debate, learn, grow and support each other as we parent our young people to be the best they can be. So to get started I have pulled together some tips for parents in the digital age. Each of these tips have come from a variety of different sources, including educators, parents, psychologists and digital experts.
TIPS FOR PARENTS IN THE DIGITAL AGE:
Create a Family Media Use Plan. The technology of today needs to be harnessed to work for you and your family. It needs to sit within your values structure and work with your parenting styles. Consider making a time to sit with your family and brainstorm the ways that technology has made your life better. Discuss openly how technology makes you feel, modelling to your child both positive messages and negative. Listen openly, actively and empathetically to your child’s perspectives on technology. Collaborate with your child to create a Media Usage Plan that will work for your family.
*Mrs V’s musing: Open dialogue is key. Show that you are ‘hearing’ your child by acknowledging their words in ‘I’ statements. For example: I am hearing that you find it really tough at school when your friends are talking about using their devices all the time. Tell me more about that.
Set Limits. As with all other activities, too much of a good thing isn’t good for you. Consider and discuss with your family what reasonable limits for technology use are. This includes where it can be used in the family home, how long it can be used for and what access your children will have.
*Mrs V’s musing: This is the time for honest conversations about the differences in digital access for the different children in your family. Honest dialogue about the child’s age, appropriate access times and available games (suited to the children’s ages), while difficult, is critical. This is where the Digital Age needs to mirror other aspects of our life. It is normal for the eldest child to generally gain greater access and responsibility to many aspects of life before their younger siblings.
‘Screen time’ doesn’t have to mean ‘alone time’. The ability to observe your child, play with your child, learn from your child and engage with your child is critical in all aspects of life, including the Digital Age. Consider the benefits of playing with them, modelling sportsmanship, gaming etiquette and enabling you to discuss matters as they come up.
*Mrs V’s musing: Most children will relish the opportunity to play digital games with you, especially if they are better than you. SEIZE THIS MOMENT! What a wonderful opportunity to turn the tables and let the student become the teacher. While you are trying to remember how to jump, dodge, fly and hit something — you will also be able to demonstrate kind words when you lose (which is inevitable I’m afraid). Getting involved brings opportunities to teach good gaming-etiquette, and pick up on misunderstandings that your child may have — such as when they think the person they are playing against is their ‘friend’, even though they have never met before. You will also gain a quick and clear insight into how your different children respond to digital media and which, if any, have a tendency towards more addictive traits.
Do YOUR Homework. There are tens of thousands of apps labelled as educational, with very limited research or evidence to back up that statement. It is critical that we ‘test drive’ and research each app or gaming platform that we allow our child/ren to use. Remember, that as teachers modify and adjust learning experiences for children to meet their needs, so too as parents we need to be mindful of each of our children and ensure that what they are accessing meets their needs and tendencies.
*Mrs V’s musing: Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would play Minecraft, join a Clash Royale Clan or be following various digital experts online to educate myself to keep up with my children’s technology usage, but boy am I glad I did. Not only has it allowed us to have some fun with my children (usually at my expense as I burn in a pit of lava), but it has helped me prevent them from falling into — and allowed me to help them out of — some digital potholes. And remember, just because it is good for someone else’s child, doesn’t mean it will be for your child.
So I encourage you to join me as I continue on this journey as a mum, teacher, leader and global digital citizen, and feel free to leave any comments you wish to share below.
I pray that the weeks ahead are filled with much joy, digital conversations, learning and support as we traverse the Digital Age together.
♥ Mrs V
Novice Minecraft player, Level 10 Clash Royale Clan member, firm but loving digital parent, mistake-maker and Head of Junior Campus
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