Helping children to build a healthy relationship with technology and knowing how much of what is enough, is challenging for parents under the best of circumstances.
Exam time however throws a whole new spanner in the works, an education expert warns. Nola Payne, head of the faculty of information and communications technology at the Independent Institute of Education said: “While some parents might want to introduce new house rules or impose a total ban on screen time during important periods such as exams, that approach could be counterproductive.”
Payne warns that parents will face a lot of resistance if they implement a total ban on social media interaction, which will not be conducive to a positive studying environment.
“Matric and other exams are already very stressful, and social media can help pupils and students unwind and let off steam by sharing their concerns, clearing up study material confusion and encouraging each other.
“In general, parents should assist their children to build a healthy relationship with technology from an early age, noting that technology has become an integral part of children’s lives.
“While there are, of course, dangers and concerns, technology has also brought many advantages and opportunities.
“Our children need to build a set of skills – hard skills and common sense ones – around technology as it will always be a huge part of their lives, whether when researching school work, investigating higher education options and searching for career opportunities, or whether for entertainment or engaging with social media contacts.”
Payne says there are four simple things parents can do to ensure healthy technology habits for life:
1. Create and schedule fun offline activities and spaces where the family can interact without technology.
2. Spend time with your younger children sharing your “tech time”.
3. Respect your children’s privacy. This could be as simple as asking for their permission before you share and tag pictures of them online.
If they don’t want you to do it, then respect their wishes.
4. Set boundaries (which the adults need to adhere to as well). For instance, not interacting with technology during dinner or if someone is talking to you.
“Parents need to embrace our changed world and work with their children to encourage a balance between technology and the physical world,” Payne says.