Control it! - Parents urged to supervise their children’s use of technology
"Cause I'm a 21st century digital boy,
I don't know how to read, but I've got a toy
My daddy's a lazy, middle-class intellectual
My mommy's on valium, so ineffectual, ain't life a mystery?"
- Bad Religion 21st Century (Digital Boy)
The Grade Six Achievement Test top boy for 2017 is Max Leiba from Foundation Preparatory School. In discussing the preparation leading up the test, his mother, Michelle Leiba, said she spent as much as three hours in the evenings with him studying. That means, unlike most children who take up their tablets when they get home, or get glued to the tube, he had to forgo all those niceties.
The reality is that with some parents having their hands full making two ends meet, plus having other siblings to deal with, it might be easier to allow gadgets to keep them entertained.
Mikhale Edwards, communications director at the National Parenting Support Commission, reminds that children are not born with the ability to prioritise objectives and tasks.
"Therefore, it's critical that parents play a major role in assisting their children to create a structured life. The constant introduction of new technological tools within the lives of children, have made it increasingly difficult for them to allocate sufficient time towards studying," he said.
Edwards said from the outset, parents should communicate with their children that the use of technology is a privilege that is earned, and therefore, it can also be taken away.
In controlling its usage, Edwards said technology among children should only be accommodated once they have completed specific tasks, or if a desired outcome requires additional input through the use of technology, for example, completing homework or a school project.
"Helping your child to develop consistent study habits will only happen after you assist them to add structure to their life. This will educate them about prioritising important tasks and developing habits that will serve them well in the future.
As your child matures, the goal for parents should be to monitor less of how their child uses technology. The main aim, however, should be to guide them about the importance of adding structure and self-control to their life," Edwards pointed out.
Acknowledging that there are children who will try to beat the system by snooping around and using a tablet or a mobile device whenever the parent is not around, he said that is why it is important they are taught self-regulation.
"In today's world where students and their smartphones are inseparable, research indicates that for a child who is studying or completing an assignment, attempting to multi-task with technology is one of the worst habits they can develop".
Ultimately, if parents desire for their children to excel in school, then distractions that come about as a result of technology should be minimised," he said.
One of the main attractions for children where technology is concerned is the fun aspect of it, and it is for that reason Edwards said parents should always strive to make learning fun for their children by relating what they are learning to something they are familiar with.
Failure to control these addictive habits now, according to Edwards, will see their children paying for it later with attention problems, difficulties in school, sleep and eating disorders that may result in obesity.
"In addition, children who engage in technological use without adequate supervision are prone to engage in illicit and risky behaviours. In addition, the brain is usually pushed to its limit when tasked to complete two complex functions at the same time. For example, completing a school assignment while making a post on social media. Both tasks are engaging the prefrontal cortex of the brain, thereby making it extremely difficult for a student to function efficiently," he said.
If a rein is not placed on their addiction, Edwards said overexposure of children to technology will be changing their brain for the worse.
"The excessive use is affecting their level of attention, motor control, language skills and even more, noticeably their eyesight. These developmental issues are more easily identifiable in children under five years, due to the level of brain development taking place during those years," he said.
For parents who may have a busy schedules, Edwards said allowing their children to constantly engage in the use of technology may be viewed as a good short-term pacifier. However, he said from an early age, children should be taught the importance of self-regulation.
"It's important for parents to appreciate the fact that technology use by their children cannot be a substitute for real social and emotional connections. It also cannot be a replacement for a child's fundamental need to get out, play and interact with their peers," he said.