Why we must teach kids to balance their screen-time and green-time by Dr Kristy Goodwin

Our kids are experiencing digitalised childhoods. Their plugged-in childhoods are impacting their health, development and even the ways that they want and expect to learn. Technology is changing so many things about childhood and adolescence.

For example, we now know that today’s kids are leading more sedentary lives and one of the reasons (it’s certainly not the only reason) is because of their screen infatuation. Teachers throughout Australia are anecdotally reporting changes to students’ fine motor skills and research now confirms that many children learn to tap, swipe and pinch before they’ve learnt to ride a bike, grip a pencil or tie their shoelaces. There are also mounting concerns that young students’ gross motor skill development is also being impacted because of excessive time spent with screens (fundamental movement skills like crawling, hanging off monkey bars and rolling and swinging to develop their vestibular systems are being displaced by screen activities).

These digital trends are worrying parents, educators and health professionals alike. With the increasing use of technology, at both and school, it’s unlikely that we’ll see an improvement in these trends, unless action is taken.

Banning technology is not the solution

Whether we love it or loathe it technology is here to stay. So digital abstinence is not a viable solution and nor should be something we aspire to achieve. Technology can benefit learners and shouldn’t be considered ‘toxic’ or ‘taboo’. In fact, the research tells us that when it’s used intentionally and in developmentally-appropriate ways, technology can certainly benefit students.

Instead, we need to teach our kids healthy ways to use technology so that their screen-time doesn’t adversely affect their learning and development. We need to teach our students sustainable habits that will empower them to effectively manage their screen use. And not the other way around where screens and devices manage them! These are critical, lifelong skills that they’ll need to flourish in the digital world they’ll inherit.

A crucial aspect of teaching kids healthy and sustainable digital habits relates to balancing their screen-time with their green-time. Our students need to value the importance of unplugging and spending time outdoors.

 

Dr Kristy is a leading digital wellness expert (and Mum!) who’s on a mission to take the guesswork and guilt out of raising and teaching kids in the digital world. Kristy is an author, speaker and researcher and speaks to parents, educators and health professionals throughout Australia and internationally. She delivers teacher professional learning workshops and parent seminars in schools throughout Australia about how children’s digitalised childhoods are impacting their health and wellbeing. She delivers a practical workshop specifically designed for educators called Healthy Digital Habits where she provides simple, practical strategies for primary and secondary teachers to help them develop healthy and helpful technology habits with students (without digitally amputating our kids). You can find more information about the topics Kristy presents at www.drkristygoodwin.com

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