At the beginning of last week, I asked a student to put his iPad in his bag whilst he waited to be picked up at the end of the day. A parent walking by commented, “those devices are a real problem”. Later that day whilst attending Dr Tessa Opie’s parent information session about relationships and sexual education, I was reminded that the internet brings our children closer to sexualised content than we would want or like. Uncomfortable feelings around digital technologies filled my head. Guilt niggled at me and the question “Do I let my own children have too much screen time?” played on my mind. I reassured myself that I was being a responsible parent by setting screen time allowances and limits on my children’s iPads.
Later in the week Angela Norman, Head of E-Learning, Sheryle Yorston, Head of Early Years and I attended a public lecture at UniSA entitled ‘The digital footprints of young children: understanding their engagement in a digital world’ presented by Professor Susan Danby, School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education at the Queensland University of Technology. It was a refreshing perspective on digital technologies.
I am happy to say that I’m now not as nervous about screen time. I’ve taken time to think about how my children are using their devices and realised that what they are doing on their screens is really positive, collaborative, creative and curiosity nourishing! In the last week my children have helped me navigate using Google Maps, developing an understanding of place, geography and directionality. They have created persuasive presentations on Keynote to convince me to get a family pet. They create and record music on Garage Band; sing and dance whilst playing Sing Star and Just Dance; collaborate with each other in Minecraft; ‘ask Siri’ when they are curious; look up song lyrics; and Skype their cousins in the UK. This engagement with technology should be celebrated!
In the Junior School at Saints, we need to celebrate the positive that digital technology is bringing to our boys’ learning. Year 6 boys are being introduced to Tasks in Keystone to support their transition to Year 7; Year 5 students use OneNote to present their Mathematics calculations; Year 4 boys take augmented reality tours through the components of a computer; and our Year 3s used the ‘Clips’ app to present poetry in the last fortnight. We should be proud of and commend the ways in which our staff and students are embracing digital technology to bolster, extend and be creative with their learning.
If you are still wondering about how to navigate the online world and our device-savvy children, here are some useful resources and ideas:
· Information about setting screen time limits for you and your family.
· Common Sense Media is a wonderful review site for children’s content.
· Play the game yourself if you aren’t sure about the games they are playing.
· Beware of free apps that are prone to advertising.
· Scaffold interest by searching the internet with your child.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Head of Junior School