Screenagers!

I’ve shared a number of articles here in recent months on the subject of children and ‘screen time’ and, as it is one of the most critical issues confronting parents and chilren today, I make no apology for sharing another.

Forbes – Are Your Kids Addicted To Their Phones? Screenagers Wants To Help
(Click on the link above to read the article and to see a trailer of the documentary)

This documentary looks to be well worth seeing once it goes on more general release. Seeing the trailer it came across very obviously that a lot of parents and children know there’s a problem, but nobody’s too sure about what to do about it. One of the scariest comments is the one about the evidence that children tend to believe that they are perfectly able to multitask whilst all experiments have shown that the effect is to perform worse on everything.

Futher, here’s an interview that the documentary maker did for American television;

I think one of the most valuable lessons she brings out is that extreme reactions aren't going to work. parents mustn't take a laissez faire view where they do nothing at all, deny the issues or do nothing because they're unclear about the way forward. Neither is it right to treat the child as 'the problem' or as though they are fundamentally bad. Bans, refusal to give the smart phones and other apparatus of the digital age isn't going to work. In such circumstances children, feeling the need to fit in with peers, will simply find devious ways to get online whenever they get the chance. In these circumstances trust is majorly undermined.

Rather, as the film suggests, we've got to maintain open dialogue with children. I've said before, it's vital that parents (and educators) share with children the simple rudimentary basics of the science of the brain that makes them more vulnerable and susceptible. In turn, we also need to make them part of the solutions, involving them in discussion and dialogue about setting reasonable boundaries. They are always far more likely to work to stick to limits and barriers that they have agreed, although even in these circumstances we have to acknowledge that they will have successes and failures, good days and bad. The key is to see this as a long term project - no point abandoning the process, giving up on the child, as soon as they have a bad day and make a mistake.

There are no easy answers, but i believe the children who will come out best adjusted are the ones whose parents and teachers are consistent and work for the long haul with the children to get these habits right, to learn what's best and to build good practices.

And, ............ as this article sets out and I've said before - we have to walk our talk. A parent who takes calls on the phone from friends or work colleagues during a family meal loses the right to complain when the child is texting and not listening to them!

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