In the last few years, many column inches have been devoted to serious hand-wringing over the impact of technology over young people’s development.
Almost all children seem to be immensely attracted to anything with a back lit screen and can happily tap and swipe away for hours on apps, games and mobile entertainment.
While research has focused on wondering if too much screen time will slice-and-dice their attention spans, mutate their brains, hamper their social skills, disturb their sleep and impact on their learning, we rarely focus on how parents’ use of technology impacts kids. If parents spend much of their own time with their faces buried in touchscreens, why do we expect their kids to be any different?
On the 12th August 2015 a youtube based campaign (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzIKphe9ZVM) was launched by a British children’s shoe company, ‘Start-rite’. British children were asked who they thought used digital media the most in their home – to which all the kids responded with their parents.
‘Probably my mum,’ says one little boy, ‘because in the morning when she can’t be bothered to watch the TV or get out of bed she will log on her phone and basically just go onto Facebook.’
One little girl concurs that her father is constantly glued to his screen: ‘I think he’s just texting and googling…I’m not sure, he’s just on his phone constantly.’ The company then ask if the children think their mums and dads spend too much time looking at their phone or tablet and if so, how it makes them feel.
The overwhelming consensus was that their parents do overuse their devices and it made the children feel isolated or disregarded. One young girl explains: ‘Well sometimes I’m like “mummy mummy” and she doesn’t answer and then I have to say it again.’
Another girl said that the phone made her father preoccupied: ‘It makes me feel a bit stressed, so say I ask him a question, he would still be on his phone and then he would answer me.’
Her peer explains that technology precludes her spending quality time with her mother: ‘My mum she spends all day on her computer and I’ll feel sad because I won’t get to play with her on a board game or something.’ ‘It kind of just makes me feel like they don’t care about us because they’re just on their phone and they never want to talk to us,’ a little boy adds. Another young boy says that he is fed up with his parents focus being on their gadgets over him.
‘They’re not giving me enough attention,’ he says ‘I’m sitting there bored because they’re on their thing doing what they’re doing and then what about me?’ The video comes as part of Start-rite’s latest campaign. #passiton, encouraging families to cut back on technology and get active outdoors over the summer holidays.
The take away message is that parents need to put their devices down and set aside at least 8 minutes each day, per child, to get down on your knees, look your child in the eye, ask them questions about their day at school and what’s going on with their friends.
Focus on their content and feed back to them what they have said, so they know that they have been heard and understood.