It’s all too common in which a parent has feelings of guilt or shame for passing their child their phone or iPad for a moment of peace – be that in the car, at a café or restaurant, when waiting for an appointment, or possibly most noticeably – to ‘hush’ a tantrum. It’s those moments when you realise your 18-month-old knows how to press the home button on your iPhone or tablet, and demands your screen when they see it come out; when your 6-year-old is glued to the Xbox and won’t come when called for dinner; or your tween is on you tube tirelessly behind closed doors and you have little or no idea of the content they’re exposed to – these are just some of those moments in which you may begin to question whether or not you’ve lost control over the technology battle…

But who decided that your child’s use of technology had to be a battle?

The truth is – screens are everywhere. Over the past two decades, children are growing up with increasing exposure to screens and technology. But like with everything in life, balance is important, and must be emphasised.

If a child eats only junk food (or high saturated fatty foods) then we may become concerned with the nutrients they may be missing from the diet. Likewise, if a child only reads in their time outside of school or social interactions – then we may be concerned that they’re not getting enough physical exercise.

Being a parent is not something that is taught explicitly. But the concern for our children’s health and wellbeing is around every corner. Most commonly the things we are concerned about, are the things that are new to us as individuals. Things that we have not experienced, and that are out of our own perceptions of the ‘norm’. As parents in this digital world, our child’s use of technology is unfamiliar territory to us. We did not grow up with these same battles with our parents. And so, we do not have memories and innate experiences of the boundaries and supports our parents put in place for us.

So, we’re here to tell you, it’s okay to be scared, confused or even overwhelmed by this digital world. It’s okay to not have the answers.

One rule of thumb we can fall back on time after time, is that child’s developmental needs are, and have been consistently researched and documented over many many years. And if we can first meet these, day by day, week by week – then we can reduce the pressure which may arise when technology and screen enters in.

7 Developmental Building Blocks of Life

The following are recognised as the 7 developmental building blocks of life. The areas in which time, effort and energy need to be concentrated on prior to additional activities. In this case, it’s screens;

  1. Attachments and relationships
  2. Language
  3. Sleep
  4. Play
  5. Physical movement
  6. Nutrition
  7. Executive-function skills.

And the truth is – technology is not able to be easily categorised as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is constantly changing and growing. It’s very unfamiliar to many of us as parents. But it IS a part of our children’s worlds (whether we like it or not), and importantly it CAN impact their development – in positive and negative ways.

Supporting healthy relationships with technology

To meet the developmental needs of our children. It is important as parents that we know how technology can be used to support. Where it may impede, on their overall function and day-to-day participations. We need to prioritise the 7 developmental building blocks. To model healthy habits with technology, and we need to be open and able to communicate about our digital usage.

Healthy development and a child’s use of technology can and most likely will run side by side as they grow. This short blog is a snippet to get us thinking! It is highly encouraged that if you are unsure of how or whether your child’s technology usage is hampering their development – then speak to a professional.

We also strongly suggest that you read and re-read Dr Kirsty Goodwin’s “Raising your child in a digital world”. She gives so many practical examples, tips and strategies surrounding the 7 developmental building blocks. Breaking down common technology myths. Focusses on ways in which to establish the healthy balance for your child’s use of technology and to reduce and remove the technology battle.

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