Have we lost the phone bat­tle?

The in­ter­est­ing and of­ten chal­leng­ing mix of tech­nol­ogy, mo­bile phones and your children


FOR par­ents deal­ing with their children’s use of tech­nol­ogy, is it a case of rolling up their sleeves and pre­par­ing for bat­tle?

As both a par­ent and an ed­u­ca­tor, I com­pletely ap­pre­ci­ate the com­plex­i­ties of par­ents man­ag­ing their children’s use of tech­nol­ogy. Be­lieve me, I’ve been in the trenches and fought the bat­tles of re­mov­ing these de­vices. I have scars. But is it just too late for par­ents to con­trol?

Tech­nol­ogy is all en­com­pass­ing and at­tempt­ing to ex­plore all ar­eas of children’s en­gage­ment such as gam­ing and on­line ac­tiv­ity would prove lengthy. There­fore for the pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle I wish to ex­plore the use of mo­bile phones, timely with the re­cent me­dia at­ten­tion of schools ban­ning these de­vices across the state.

One of the dif­fi­cul­ties with the rapid devel­op­ment of mo­bile phones is that we have no his­tory of how we man­aged children from past gen­er­a­tions. It’s important to note that our cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of children have never ex­pe­ri­enced a world with­out such tech­nol­ogy. There­fore they find it dif­fi­cult to re­late to pre­his­toric par­ents lec­tur­ing them about what it used to be like to wait to use a phone that was con­nected to a cord as we at­tempted to hide around the corner so that our par­ents couldn’t lis­ten in to the con­ver­sa­tion. I’ve tried the “You don’t un­der­stand what it used to be like” an­gle and as I am sure you can ap­pre­ci­ate it, it doesn’t work.

For schools, mon­i­tor­ing the use of mo­bile phones is com­plex par­tic­u­larly with the ever-in­creas­ing smart phones that al­low com­plete in­ter­net free­dom. With the in­stan­ta­neous abil­ity to send and re­ceive mes­sages, stu­dents are com­pletely con­nected to one an­other for bet­ter, or worse. In the past when the school day ended a stu­dent would farewell his/her friend and not see them un­til the fol­low­ing day. Now, stu­dents have end­less con­nec­tion and in many cases com­pletely ad­dicted to their phone.

In an ed­u­ca­tional con­text and to put it sim­ply, stu­dents need to dis­con­nect from mo­bile de­vices and be present in the mo­ment. Schools are not ban­ning phones as de­picted in the me­dia but re­mov­ing this de­vices as a dis­trac­tion. Stu­dents and in­deed par­ents may ar­gue that these phones are learn­ing de­vices how­ever, for the most part they pro­vide great dis­trac­tion and the ten­dency for friend­ship is­sues to arise.

Sta­tis­tics show that children of­ten model their mo­bile phone us­age from not only their peers but more so by their par­ents. Al­though children are im­mersed in tech­nol­ogy, it doesn’t mean they have the skills to suc­cess­fully nav­i­gate in these spa­ces.

Strate­gies that may prove help­ful in­clude: ■ Don’t give your child a mo­bile phone. De­spite pop­u­lar be­liefs – not all children have them.

■ Lim­it­ing the hours of use – valu­ing the im­por­tance of dis­con­nect­ing and be­ing present in the mo­ment.

■ Not per­mit­ting mo­bile phone de­vices in bed­rooms – dis­con­nect­ing is para­mount.

■ Stor­ing mo­bile phones in a cen­tral area in the house.

■ Not en­gag­ing in use dur­ing meals or fam­ily time – mod­el­ling pos­i­tive be­hav­iour. ■ Avoid the phone be­com­ing a pri­vate tool of the child – know pass­words and openly use this phone with your child.

■ Dis­cuss the need to con­nect with on­line so­cial me­dia in­clud­ing Snapchat, Face­book and In­sta­gram. Not all children en­gage in these ar­eas – and im­por­tantly le­gal ages ap­ply to these com­mu­ni­ties.

■ At­tempt­ing to re­main calm when children find them­selves in the wrong sit­u­a­tion. We want our children to come to us when they feel con­fused or need guid­ance.

■ Re­mind­ing, re­mind­ing and re­mind­ing that once a mes­sage is sent – that mes­sage be­comes pub­lic and can­not be retrieved. A photo/im­age/text is never pri­vate.

In re­gards to man­ag­ing mo­bile phones and other tech­no­log­i­cal de­vices the key mes­sage re­mains that par­ents and schools pro­vide bound­aries for their children. The majority of Queens­land schools through re­mov­ing de­vices are mak­ing it very clear that re­spect be­tween our stu­dents is not limited to school grounds but ex­tends to mo­bile phones and the on­line com­mu­nity.

My ad­vice to other par­ents for what it is worth: Be strong and main­tain con­sis­tent ex­pec­ta­tions of tech­nol­ogy use. Above all, model pos­i­tive tech­no­log­i­cal be­hav­iour. Set­ting clear bound­aries and en­gag­ing in open con­ver­sa­tion is key. If we con­sider this in terms of a bat­tle – be pos­i­tive and op­ti­mistic as it’s one that par­ents can win.


PHONE FIGHT: One of the great de­bates at the mo­ment is the use of phones in class­rooms, and the school­yard. Where do you stand on the is­sue?

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