Francesca Rudkin: More care needed to tackle digital addiction


Manage episode 232788623 series 2500324
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Generation Z does seem to be the guinea pig for the digital revolution. Never before has social media and gaming software been as accessible as it is now, and never before have they been so sophisticated in how they encourage users to engage with them over and over. You only have to play a game of Fortnite, a free online game that’s very popular in our house, to see how this works – or watch how many times each day people around you check Instagram or Facebook. The science behind the teenage brain is also becoming more sophisticated, and good information is key for dealing with any issue. As parents we should understand what’s going on with our teenagers – the teenagers may even find this information interesting. A 2016 study in the States scanned teenagers brains while they used social media and found there is a lot of power in being “liked”; we like what our peers like, and they also found risky behaviours decreased activity on the regions of the brain that put the brakes on, weakening their “be-careful” filter. Even Silicon Valley moguls have rules around their children’s use of devices. They’re the ones I pay attention too. So what should we do? The bluntest approach is to severely restrict access to personal electronic devices. Not allow kids to even dip their toes into the world of gaming and social media. Is depriving kids of what is now considered a normal means of communication and recreation the way to go? I’d love to but they always find a way around it, and I’m not sure it’s a realistic solution. I know a family who didn’t allow their kids to game, they refused to have a PlayStation or X--Box in the house. They moved to a lovely seaside suburb in Auckland, and enthused about the amazing community and how the kids spent the weekend on bikes, cruising the neighbourhood with friends. Turns out, the kids were cruising over to their friends to play PlayStation. The parents gave in and so, to have their kids home more often, bought them a PlayStation. Everything in moderation I say. Not all kids are wired to devices – lots of kids are active, work hard during the week, play sport on a Saturday, and then chill out in front of a screen on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Is that so bad? I think the rules suggested by David Gillespie are good – well, four of them. The one I have the issue with is ‘no devices at all’. I think as parents we need to understand this new world, and help teenagers manage it through rules and boundaries. Kids do understand ‘no’, but you just have to say it a million times for it to sink in. They do understand rules, and after a few failed attempts to get around them they get their heads around the idea of consequence as well. How about this for a common sense approach: no screens in the bedroom, no devices at the dinner table, limiting your wi-fi connection, knowing your younger teenager’s passwords and being allowed to friend them. We also need to keep in touch with our kids, spend time, check in, and make sure the pressures of school, friendships and expectations aren’t getting on top of them. And when none of this works I suggest we just all get online and beat our kids at their own game. This parenting business can be exhausting and repetitive at times – don’t we deserve to have a little online fun as well, with the bonus being horrifying the kids!

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