Throughout February the OpenView Education team visits thousands of students, parents and teachers to provide internet safety training and internet safety workshops. The time spent with students across the country gives us an insight into the way primary aged students are using technology.
A concern that we regularly hear from parents and teachers is that young people are spending too long on their devices and that this screen time could be hindering their development and impacting their mental health and wellbeing.
It should come as no surprise that children are drawn to spending long periods of time using their devices. Games and apps are created with a compulsive design, to keep users on their platforms for as long as possible. The ‘Disrupted Childhood’ report from 5Rights suggests that education on compulsive design, and helping students to understand why games and apps are addictive could help loosen the grip that these design features have on our attention.
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists also recently published a report; ‘Technology use and the mental health of children and young people.’
The report explores:
The impact of different kinds of screen time on the mental health of young people.
The addictive nature of screen time.
How vulnerable groups may be impacted by negative content.
Potential for bullying and safeguarding issues.
The report also sets out guidelines for parents and teachers on addressing the subject of screen time with young people:
Recommendations for Parents:
The core principles of parenting still apply: Talk about the pros and cons of screen time.
Encourage conversation about what is seen online.
Access resources such as the MindEd Resource.
Encourage critical thinking about what we post online
Build in screen free times of day: For example making dinner time a ‘screen free zone’.
Role-Model positive tech usage: A powerful way of changing the habits and behaviours of young people is leading by example
Recommendations for Teachers and Schools:
Create a policy about how we should use our devices in a way that supports our wellbeing.
Encourage open conversation with students about their online challenges.
If you are concerned about a child’s screen time usage having a negative impact on their mental health, speak to your mental health or safeguarding lead. You could also speak to the parent of the child concerned.
Access the MindEd resources for further support on this topic.
Create opportunities for students to do group work away from screens when possible.
Deliver lessons or workshops on cyberbullying and internet safety.
This is just a short snippet from the full report which gives an overview of the challenges around screentime for young people. I recommend checking out the full report here.
Our role as parents and educators is to help young people find a balance between technology usage and engaging in offline activities that are vital for their wellbeing and development. Technology and the internet has created a time of unprecedented opportunities, but it also brings with it new challenges.
A great way of giving your team the confidence and skills to deliver internet safety lessons is through internet safety training at your school, OpenView Education offer these sessions for teachers, students and parents throughout the year.
But even if you decide to address the topic in house, a great first step is to simply start the conversation about online usage, and create opportunities for young people to voice concerns they may have about their online experiences.