Covid-19 · Fostering · Parenting

Digital Landscape

Kids on various screens is a reality in our world. There is no going back. They do school online, read online, connect with friends online, play games online, chat with family online… you get the picture.

In this Covid-19 Pandemic technology has saved us, and is sinking us at the same time.

The quote below highlights principles to apply to our time online…

The digital landscape is evolving more quickly than research on the effects of screen media on the development, learning and family life of children… Evidence-based guidance to optimize and support children’s media experiences involves four principles: minimizing, mitigating, mindfully using and modelling healthy use of screens.

-Paediatrics & Child Health, 2017, Position Statement Advance Access publication 9 October 2017

If you apply these principles to your life how does it look? How does a person even begin to talk about this with kids in care?

Minimize? Well what are reasonable screen time limits? So much happens on screens it’s hard to determine a limit! If they spend 5 hours online to do school work are they done for the day? I’d like to say yes, but if the only way they can connect with friends is online… and their favourite down time activity is a video game… and the library is closed so all the reading is online… and family movie time is a great way to spend a cold Alberta evening together… I ask again, what is a reasonable limit? It depends on a lot of factors including age, maturity, what they’re doing on screen and what else is available for them to do. Minimizing screen time is a complicated minefield to navigate.

When the sun is shining and friends are outside it is much easier to minimize screen time, but still not simple.

Mitigate

 to cause to become less harsh or hostile: to make less severe or painful

Miriam Webster Dictionary

Mitigate? How do you prevent the online world of teens from being harsh or hostile? How do you make Social media less painful? The theory is that we keep our kids off inappropriate sites and they’ll be safe… it’s a great theory. Unfortunately there is hostility and pain everywhere online and our kids are likely to be exposed to some form of cyber bullying or inappropriate content. We are just beginning to understand the effects of Social media on the self esteem of kids and see that it’s pretty normal for them to beat themselves up because they don’t measure up to what they see online.

And don’t even get me started on the amount of hostility directed at me as a parent the moment I start suggesting that screen time be limited. It seems they would rather rip their left arm off than be without their phone for a day!!

Mindful usage?

Kids are taught mindfulness a lot in school. Be present in the moment. What do you see, feel, hear and smell. Be intentional about what you do online! But I would be the first to admit that I have disappeared into the world of Facebook or Instagram only to realize I just spent 2 hours clicking without realizing it!! What we see online is designed to saturate our senses and consume our interest!

Parents who think they are mindful of their kids online usage 24/7 are sadly mistaken. You can have all the limits, and restrictions and be as vigilant as you want… you’ll still miss some stuff. Our kids technology is currently limited through the Family Share feature. Their phones shut off at 9:30pm and aren’t usable til 7:00 am. This is added to the fact they have to turn them off and plug them in for those hours anyway. Why the double security you ask? They’re teens! We learned that our compliant, obedient kids, were sneaking their school Computers into their rooms at night to fill the hours with videos so now those have to come into our room to be secure. Where there is a will there is a way. So we will try to keep tabs on what they’re up to and have conversations about the screen time reports I see. Helping them be aware of the amount of time they are spending on their devices has been eye-opening for them.

night time charge station

Model healthy screen practices?

Welcome to the world of screens. We aren’t a family that spends a lot of time on screens… never have been. Didn’t have cable TV until about 5 years ago. Yet I am guilty of spending a fair bit of time on a screen. I spend time on a computer for work and I have a lot of things I do online. I play word games with friends, do my banking, check on friends and family through Social Media, I have a few mindless games that are my guilty pleasure, and of course I blog. I can spend quite a few hours staring at a screen. I can also put it away and go outside. I guess that’s maturity more than anything. Our teens complain about doing anything and then enjoy whatever it is we do. Our hope is to model that technology can be a tool to enrich your life, but it should never control you.

My take away from all this is BE INTENTIONAL.

Don’t let technology take over your world, not even in a season where so much more than usual is online. Choose what amount of your time you give to technology and when you take a break choose to engage with those around you and practice self health.

Technology is not an evil to be conquered, it is a tool we can use! In the world of foster care technology can be a blessing and a curse… like most things. Use it wisely and try to keep in mind the 4 recommended principles. Minimize, mitigate, mindful use and model healthy practices.

In the midst of the mess

Marny

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