Last Tuesday evening, 40 Heritage families attended a webinar delivered by Jason Royce, Director of Souster Youth. The purpose of the session was to discuss the unique challenge of raising the ‘iGeneration’ – children born roughly between 1995 – 2010. This generation is remarkable in part by the amount of time they spend online, averaging about four hours per day on their phones. And the periods of lockdown due to the Covid pandemic have led to children being on screens even more than ever. Jason’s talk gave support to parents who are struggling with how to think through this challenge and to set appropriate boundaries in their own homes.
He outlined the risks that technology can present to young people including exposure to inappropriate content and false information, promotion of harmful behaviours, oversharing of personal information, and bullying and other negative online interactions. Despite these risks, he urged parents to take a balanced view, noting that some claims about technology’s negative impacts have not yet been proven by research, and that screens can present positive opportunities as well.
However, Jason did note some important conclusions that can be drawn from psychological health studies. First, what children do on screens matters more than the time spent on screen. Second, screen use can impact quality and quantity of sleep. And finally, there is an opportunity cost when screen time replaces other activities that would otherwise benefit children.
Basic rules like eliminating screens at mealtimes, bedtimes and in rooms at night, and putting limits in place that prioritise more beneficial activities over screen time, can help parents mitigate these negative impacts. But more importantly, he encouraged parents to always be having conversations with their children about technology. He provided a list of topics and resources to help.
- Online safety: saferinternet.org.uk
- Pornography & sexualized content: fightthenewdrug.org and nspcc.org.uk
- Digital addiction: healthychildren.org/english/media
In closing, he shared some ideas to keep in mind and pass on to our children:
- The internet is like an amazing city; enjoy it, but stay alert
- What we do online has an impact offline
- Ask: ‘What would someone who loves me say about this?’
What parents said:
Jason Royce’s talk was the first on the topic of navigating the digital world that didn’t leave me feeling daunted. I liked his analogy that the internet is like a city. It makes total sense that we wouldn’t let our nine year old wander the streets unprepared. So too, goes for the internet. He emphasised that it’s not all about putting blocks on search engines (although of course something to do), but about connecting with our kids, discussing the issues and asking them questions. The most important thing I came away with is the need to set up the circumstances for trust between parents and kids so that a fluid discussion can arise if problems precipitate. It is essential. I truly appreciated his genuine enthusiasm for the internet and the great tool that it can be. To that end he emphasised that not all screen time is created equal! This will have a big impact on our household. Too often, talks of this ilk make it out to be Gotham City out there. Thank you, Jason!
I thought the session was really thought provoking. Jason’s insights were helpful not just for our children’s use of tech but ours too!