Growing Up Online

Author: John Stewart Head of Preparatory School PAC

The digital world can seem like a very foreign place to some parents. Our children may look like they are playing an innocent game with their friends online but are they safe? We cannot always be aware of who they are actually playing with but we can teach them how to protect themselves online.

Dr Kristy Goodwin visited the College to share her insight on parenting in the digital world. As both a parent and a researcher, Dr Goodwin was able to share what the most recent information tells us and also provide practical tips on what we as parents can do to help keep our children safe online and also how to more easily manage technology in our homes.

Dr Goodwin believes that children need boundaries around not only how much screen time they have but also what, when, where, with whom and how they use their screens. Focusing mainly on ‘screen time’ as an issue, can miss other important questions such as what they are watching or playing and when and how they are using their screens.

The Australian Government has provided some useful tips regarding screen time, sleep and movement. For children aged 5 to 12, they recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous movement per day, 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night and no more than two hours of screen time for entertainment per day.

Dr Goodwin’s advice is simple – “parents need to be the pilot of the digital plane.” This means they need to be the ones making the decisions regarding screen time, sleep and activity in their homes.As parents, we need to decide not only how much, but where and what our children are doing when on their devices. Dr Goodwin does not see screen time as simply bad or good. There are positive aspects to using technology such as bolstering relationships through video and chat features, but excess use can be detrimental to a child’s relationships and social skills.

Techno tantrums are a real thing as most parents can attest.Dr Goodwin broke down for us what causes these and how to manage them. As using a device or watching TV is usually a pleasurable experience and causes the releasee of the neurotransmitter ‘dopamine’. By switching off, the dopamine response is terminated and a techno tantrum can unfold.

Her advice is simple – give ample warning that screen time is about to end. This helps children to better cope with the fact that the device will be switched off. She also suggests we follow screen time with some physical activity which also boosts positive neurotransmitters, and finally, let our children switch off the device as it will let them feel that they are in control.

Dr Goodwin believes that children can only be empowered online if they know they need to be empowered. She shared with the Preparatory School boys some tips and tools to help stay safe when they are online.

Her key message to the boys was; how do you know who you are speaking to online if you can’t see or hear them?

Her tips for being an amazing digital citizen:

  1. Don’t talk to strangers on the internet. Although there are awesome people on the internet, not everyone is safe to talk to. Don’t chat to people online that Mum and Dad have not given you permission to talk to.
  2. Never give out our personal information, which includes your name, address, school, age, passwords, email address and phone numbers.
  3. Never use your device in your bedroom. Use it in a shared open space where an adult is present.
  4. Before you post a picture or a comment online, think first of the four Ps – Parents, Principal, Police and Perfect Strangers. If even one of these groups would not approve of the picture or post, don’t post it.

Getting this balance right is never easy. At times it can be easier to default to simply saying ‘No’, but the benefits of teaching our children how to be safe and how to manage their technology in a beneficial manner will have a long-term impact that can only help our children as they continue to grow up in a digital world.

More information from Dr Kristy Goodwin on raising your child in a digital world, is available from her website

John Stewart
Head of Preparatory School PAC