Since Education for Life is a very individualized approach and responds to the unique needs and stage of development for each child and family, there isn't a set "policy" or prescription for the best way to work with technology.
Certainly the quantity, quality and consciousness of the media that's consumed all have an impact but overall we have seen over the years how access to screens generally has a negative impact on children's ability to grow and develop in a balanced and holistic way. Every day there is more and more research that support these observations.
I recently became aware of a national movement called "Wait Until 8th" to support parents in delaying their child's access to smartphones until the end of 8th grade.
"We empower parents to say yes to waiting for the smartphone. The Wait Until 8th pledge empowers parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade. By banding together, this will decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone."
The idea is for parents in different schools and communities come together to take the pledge in order create a culture of delayed access that is mutually supportive and beneficial both to families and to our children. I think we can all agree in today's screen-centered world we need all the help we can get to support healthier habits!
I love this approach not just for the potential benefits to our children but because it fosters connection and support for parents and families in navigating the challenges of technology. It takes a lot of energy to increase our awareness and parent more consciously - having a community of support is essential.
According the Wait Until 8th website, which includes links to up-to-date research,:
Smartphones are addictive
Smartphones are an academic distraction
Excessive smartphone use is altering children’s brains
Smartphones impair sleep
Smartphones interfere with relationships
Smartphones increase the risk for anxiety and depression
Smartphones put your child at risk for cyber bullying
Smartphones expose children to sexual content
Those are a lot of good reasons to wait! Yet one of the most interesting things to take note of is how many technology executives, those who created the devices and apps we use, actually ban smartphones and access to social media for their children. This should certainly give us pause and perhaps inspire us to think twice about how much access our children have to these things, regardless of any social or cultural pressure to do so.
Delaying access is just one tool we can work with when it comes to working with screen time in a more conscious way. You can find our other screen time tips for conscious parents here. There are also lots of great resources for further learning and support around parenting in the digital age. Here are a few of my favorites:
Common Sense Media - Bookmark this page! Seriously one of the BEST resources on the web for choosing books, apps, movies and shows that support higher values and are age-appropriate. Not sure about the latest movie or video game your child is interested in? Check here first before you say yes!
Screenagers - Lots of great resources and conversations starters both through the blog and podcast. Watching the films with your children (especially teens and pre-teens) is also great way to start working together make more conscious choices.
Wait Until 8th - Consider taking the pledge and encouraging other parents in your community or school to get on board. There is strength in numbers!
If you have other resources you love, let us know! We'd love to be able to share these with other parents. And remember, being conscious isn't about getting it all right all the time. Whatever your choices around technology, try to make them consciously. Ask yourself, "Do my choices around screen time and media support the values that matter most to me as a parent?" If not, it might be time for a change. As always, be in touch if you'd like to chat or get some extra support.