Children’s technology and development expert Dr Kristy Goodwin understands that many parents are concerned and confused about the impact of technology on their children. But we really don’t need to worry so much.
We worry about the amount of time children spend staring at a small screen, especially during school holidays when the structure of school and afternoon sports and activities falls away. Deciding on the right amount of screen time and the appropriate level of access to touch-screen devices, mobile phones and video games – as well as issues of addiction and cyber-safety –are just some of the ‘digital dilemmas’ modern parents face.
Dr Kristy says, on the one hand, parents are told to avoid or minimise young children’s exposure to screens and devices because of the perceived harm it may cause developing brains and bodies. On the other hand, parents are urged to introduce their children to all forms of technology at an early age so they don’t fall behind at school or later in life.
Dr Kristy says that technology isn’t toxic or taboo, and we need to teach our children both how to form healthy habits with screens (without necessarily digitally amputating them) and how to balance their green-time with screen-time for healthy development. Children gain neurological benefits from green time as much as they learn from screen-time.
Dr Kristy believes the amount of advice circulating for parents is overwhelming, contradictory and, more often than not, inaccurate.
As a result, cycles of techno-myths are perpetuated and circulated among well-meaning parents, such as:
· technology causes ADD and ADHD
· TV, touch screens and video games are ‘bad’ for children
· baby DVDs and Mozart will boost brain development and enhance language skills
· children don’t learn from video games
· leaving the TV on when no-one is watching is okay
· there are ‘safe’ amounts of screen time.
Dr Kristy has made it her mission to bust these myths and give parents peace-of-mind by arming them with facts, not fears, about what young children really need to thrive in the digital world.
As a researcher (and a mum) she says, ‘I’ve spent countless hours devouring and digesting the latest research from a range of disciplines to build a comprehensive picture of what digital practices and habits are effective and conducive to young children’s learning and development – and which are potentially harmful. I must admit that at times my discoveries have both surprised and scared me.
‘However, rather than fearing or banning technology, we should aim to create healthy digital habits in their children. The technology is here to stay so we have to show our children healthy and helpful ways to use it (so it doesn’t derail their development). Technology is changing the ways young children learn, develop and play. We can use the available research to leverage technology to meet children’s developmental needs, help them learn and minimise any potential harmful effects.’
Dr Kristy has developed a simple formula that parents can use to calculate healthy amounts of screen-time without having to adhere to rigid and outdated screen-time guidelines. She says, ‘I developed this simple formula so that parents can have peace-of-mind that their children’s screen-time isn’t impacting their health and development.
‘My book won’t tell parents what they should do with young children in terms of technology – no-one likes to be should on! Instead, it will help parents make informed, everyday decisions. In addition, there are lots of practical tips to help parents understand how to raise children in this digital landscape without having to ban the iPad, disconnect the wi-fi, or unplug the TV.’
Dr Kristy also explains in her book how children have seven basic developmental needs and outlines how technology can either support or stifle each of them: relationships and attachments; language development; sleep; play; physical movement; nutrition; and executive-function skills.
In addition, there are lots of practical tips to help parents understand how to raise children in this digital landscape (without having to ban the iPad, disconnect the wi-fi, or unplug the TV).’
Dr Kristy Goodwin is an award-winning children’s technology, learning and development researcher, teacher and mum. She is the Director of Every Chance to Learn, a researcher, speaker, consultant, an Honorary Associate at The Institute of Early Childhood at Macquarie University and a highly sought-after expert on young children and technology. Kristy has spent thirteen years as a teacher, speaker and digital advocate. She’s on a mission to help parents feel confident raising their children in the digital age. Learn more about her work at www.drkristygoodwin.com.
Raising Your Child in a Digital World by Dr Kristy Goodwin (Finch Publishing) is available from 1 July in paperback ($29.99) and ebook ($9.99) from good bookshops and online retailers and etailers.
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