‘The New Digital Divide’ is digital wellness — which means responsible and healthy relationships with technology — all part of overall children & student wellbeing which is an essential 21st-century skill.
It is not uncommon that children spend 6 to 8 hours on digital screens every day.
Some children are taught knowledge and skills necessary for digital wellness at home. Most parents, however, find it difficult and would welcome more support from school to help them support their children in building digital wellness at home.
If children don’t learn this at home and if they can’t practise it in school, many children are left to their own devices to navigate in risky waters of the digital world.
There is more to it. Failure to value digital wellness may put educational equity further at risk and widen “the new digital divide” among young people.
Because practically all children have access to the Internet, “the new digital divide” is the gap between children whose parents understand that they must limit screen time and those whose parents have fewer or no opportunities to do so.
Families and schools share responsibility in developing children’s digital wellness
How do you ‘talk & teach’ your kids about balance or do you just nag a lot or put your head in the sand?
When talking about digital wellness with kids, it’s important to use age-appropriate language and engage them in a meaningful conversation.
Here are some simple tips to guide your discussion:
Start with open-ended questions:
Begin the conversation by asking open-ended questions to encourage your child to share their thoughts and experiences. For example, “How do you feel when you spend a lot of time on screens?”
Explain the concept of digital wellness:
Help your child understand that digital wellness refers to finding a healthy balance in their technology use, promoting well-being & being mindful of their online activities.
Discuss the positives and negatives:
Talk about the benefits and drawbacks of technology. Highlight the advantages, such as learning opportunities and staying connected with friends, as well as the potential negatives like excessive screen time or cyberbullying.
Set screen time limits:
Discuss the importance of setting limits on screen time and explain why it’s necessary for their well-being. Encourage them to take breaks, engage in physical activities, and pursue other hobbies offline.
Promote a digital detox:
Explain the concept of a digital detox, where they can take a break from screens for a certain period of time. Encourage activities like reading, playing outside, or spending time with family and friends without electronic devices.
Teach responsible online behaviour: Emphasise the importance of being kind, respectful, and responsible when using digital devices. Discuss the potential consequences of sharing personal information or engaging in inappropriate online behavior.
Encourage critical thinking:
Teach your child to question and evaluate the content they encounter online. Help them understand the difference between reliable and unreliable sources of information.
Model healthy digital habits: Children often learn by observing their parents and caregivers. Be a positive role model by demonstrating healthy screen time habits and using technology responsibly.
Create technology-free zones or times:
Designate specific areas or times in your home where screens are not allowed, such as during meal times or in bedrooms. This can help create boundaries and promote healthier technology use.
Maintain an ongoing conversation:
Digital wellness is an ongoing topic, so make sure to keep the conversation alive. Check in with your child regularly, listen to their concerns, and provide guidance as needed.
Remember, the goal is to create a safe and balanced relationship with technology while helping children understand the importance of their well-being in the digital world.
These were some of the findings in Growing Up Digital Australia which aimed to understand the scope of physical, mental and social consequences of digital media and technologies on children and young people.