PART 5: The Holiday Edition

The musings of an empathetic mum, teacher, leader and global digital citizen
(aka Mrs V)

Hello fellow travellers on this Tech-Journey! It has been a privilege to engage with you this term through Tech T@lk! We have talked about technology and your child, online gaming, videos of others playing video games (yes… remember that one) and last time — Social Media.

Now I don’t know about you, but after all of this Tech T@lk I am looking forward to a holiday. In particular I am really excited about not having to make school lunches for two weeks (am I right?!?), not setting my alarm clock and not rushing from activity to activity. There are so many blessings that lie ahead.

However there are a couple of things that do not excite me in quite the same way, such as endless loads of washing as my children experiment with their fashion sense, those plates and cups that sprout up in every nook and cranny of our home and the inevitable boredom-factor that can set in.

But above all of these niggly and uninviting moments, there is only one that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and that is the prospect of all of that extra free time that I know my children will want to spend on their devices.

Oh I can hear it already… But Mum, why do you have to put my iPad on guided access, it’s the holidays!’ But Mum, why can’t I stay up later and game, it’s the holidays! But mum, why can’t I keep playing, I’ve only been on my computer since 7am and you haven’t finished cooking dinner yet! But Mum, everyone else is on their device and can play their games till midnight!!! Why do you have to be so MEAN!!! Not cool Mum, not cool!!!

Ohhhhhh yes…. I’m super excited about the holidays! In fact, if you need me, I’ll be hiding in the bushes!

So, as we prepare ourselves for the weeks ahead, the long dark night, the battle to end all battles, let us steady ourselves with a few tips and tricks to help see us through till school gets back!

Mrs V’s Top 8 Tech Tips to help you through the holidays

Tip Number 1: Spot the ready-made statistics
Your child will try to tell you that everyone else is allowed to play ‘it’, and everyone else has this game, and everyone else’s mother or father is way cooler than you are. These types of statements are false and are just your child’s attempt to convince you, shake you off-balance or catch you at a weak moment. You will discover as you talk with other parents that they are hearing exactly the same things in their homes. Just remember, you are way cool!

Tip Number 2: Kids crave social connections
When your child goes on holidays they lose most of their immediate social connections. The value of the face-to-face time they spend at school cannot be overlooked. Therefore, it is not uncommon for children to want to increase their technology-time during the holidays as they attempt to reconnect and stay connected with their friends. Of course, for all of the reasons we have discussed previously, this can prove challenging for children to manage online. They cannot read the other person’s tone, or see their facial expression. They often misread what is said, or feel left out if they do not hear from a friend. Consider organising play-dates with their friends with planned activities (outside) when you can. Don’t be afraid to mention to the other parents that your child isn’t having their device at the moment and watch the magic happen… nerf guns, water guns, soccer games and more.

Tip Number 3: School Holidays do not have to mean unlimited tech-time!
Maintain your family tech expectations! Children crave stability and continuity. Make rules and stick to them. Parents and families have rules about a lot of things—no shoes inside the house, no hats at the table, no dessert before dinner. Screen time should be no different. While it seems generous and kind to provide unlimited or substantially increased tech time on the holidays, beware the end of holiday withdrawal symptoms!

It takes our children no time at all to get used to having extra technology time, but it can take over a week to help them get back into school routines. For this reason keep their tech routines as normal as possible and look for other activities to help fill in the time.

Tip Number 4: Take care of yourself!
It is important that we pay attention to our own needs and feelings during the holiday season. We can find fun, enjoyable and relaxing activities for ourselves and our families. By keeping our minds and bodies healthy, we are primed to deal with stressful situations when they arise. Consider cutting back television viewing for kids, and getting the family out together for fresh air and a spring-walk. Physical activity can help us feel better and sleep well, and while the grumbling may continue for a little while, it is interesting how quickly it dissipates when you are feeding the ducks, kicking a soccer ball or climbing trees.

Tip Number 5: Set a Tech Challenge for your child and you!
Take the school holidays as an opportunity to challenge your child in using their technology. Ask them to complete some ‘hour of code’ challenges, dust off the old Minecraft books and ask them to construct one of the incredible buildings from within its pages.

Challenge them to recreate their bedroom in Minecraft or better still design the bedroom of your dreams in Minecraft. Encourage your child to film a Stop Go Motion video using Lego… there are endless options out there. Celebrate all of their efforts with them.

Tip Number 6: Maintain a digital curfew
Research would say that there should be no recreational screen time at least an hour before bed. The light from screens and the proximity to the face suppresses melatonin and interferes with sleep cycles. For older kids, that also means no TVs, phones and tablets in the bedroom. Sadly, as powerful and wondrous as holidays are, they are still yet to overcome these challenges.

Conversations around these facts with your child are critical in helping them to understand. And remember just as many of us are still learning to put our clothes in the basket, it too will take time for them to understanding why we need a digital curfew.

Tip Number 7: Think of what is being displaced
Often, it is important to explicitly draw attention to the things that technology is squeezing out of their lives: such as story time, outdoor play, sports, writing on the concrete with chalk, and building blanket forts—these go by the wayside when our kids’ lives are filled with technology.

As parents we need to build space for these critical developmental activities to occur and we need to help our children connect with them again. That might mean that you are crawling into the fort with a good book and a bowl of popcorn too! Never overlook the power of looking through old photos together. It is amazing what they relearn and remember about themselves.

Tip Number 8: Be the best example to your child!
Our children look at us, their parents, to know how to behave. They are switched on cookies and can spot hypocrisy a mile away. If the family expectation is no devices at the table, them that should mean parents too. If we are saying that we miss them connecting with and talking with us, then how are we showing that we are communicating with them? If you are connected to your device all the time, your child will think that’s an acceptable behaviour.

So as we head into the long winter… I mean… Holidays, let us do so with a sense of purpose and resolve. Let’s pledge to reconnect face to face, listen to and understand our child’s feelings, explain our feelings, keep things in perspective and maintain a sense of calm. Above all… stay cool and stay strong. The worst thing we can do is lose our temper.

I’m going to miss talking to you all over the break and I look forward to our next Tech T@lk in Term 4. Until then just remember how much you love them, how much they love you, and that we are all in this together!

 Mrs V

(Novice Minecraft player, Level 10 Clash Royale Clan Leader, firm but loving digital parent, mistake-maker and Head of Junior School)

P.S. Don’t forget to phone a friend if you need to!