40 mins inc settling & questions. What is the impact of children having their own devices, and how do we manage this?
Just for the LOL’s, wanted to add this into a slide – BBC archive posted this last month – when they first demonstrated a ‘mobile phone’, and took it out into the Blue Peter garden to test a call to a ‘normal phone’ as they described it! Is this where “IT” (whatever it is) all started?
6 mins if you want to go and watch it…
So, wanted to kickstart with something that has fairly recently been doing the rounds on Facebook (editing the swearword out of it)…. Always think that humour can get at things pretty well, and it’s certainly a topic of conversation in universities… (*See the Simon Sinek video - https://youtu.be/hER0Qp6QJNU though don’t agree with it all…) It’s SO EASY to blame the technology for everything (the zombie jokes, etc.), and of course there are some who use phones in unhealthy ways…
How many of you saw this article in September? Again, it did the rounds – and the rounds again – on the social networks!
In brief Jean M Twenge, who researches generational differences [something I’m a little sceptical of anyway – human beings are still individuals], noted from 2012 that this is the year that American ownership of smartphones passed 50% and saw many generational differences… Born 1995-2012? She calls you iGen, you don’t remember a time before the internet was to hand at all times… and believes that this is causing a mental health crisis, and a generation that is putting off the responsibilities of adulthood (Because social life is on the phone, so no need to engage with ‘real life’, lonely, distressed, feelings of being ‘left out’, not interacting with parents – time onscreen is equated with unhappiness – self-declared levels of happiness). Described as addiction, lack of sleep, leading to suicide, etc… if you don’t know anything else, then this is the kind of writing to cause panic, rather than a feeling of empowerment to do anything…
This is a very powerful piece of writing, that speaks into many people’s fears, and is in a reputable and widely read newspaper, so a lot of people have taken this on board, though TBF, it chimes with many people’s fears anyway *moral panics
As always, the internet has useful information, and less useful information – and one of my first ports of call for information related to children and the internet is a project at London School of Economics, headed up by Sonia Livingstone – which has done long term research into digital, and balances its research well on the benefits and constraints of digital on children – and the realities of young lives lived in a digital age.
IF we focus on mobile phones as the damaging aspect, we’re not putting the time and resources into where the real work needs to be done, in young people’s mental health, and pressures they are under from many directions (as that original ‘joke’ demonstrated). If correlation is tied to causation, we need to be clear which way that causation is flowing! E.g. those suffering from depression may be online a lot seeking help/information, connecting with friends; or those who have depression are growing up in homes without a lot of attention, and digital gives them that… there’s a lot of research to be done there. Digital may augment things that are already happening, but large scale research in 2012 demonstrated that 5% teens said socnet made them more depressed, 10% less depressed, and rest didn’t make a difference.
See also: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/once-more-feeling/201708/no-smartphones-are-not-destroying-generation - research is cherry picked, it all correlational/not causational, research used ignores social contexts and individual differences, and ignores the positive benefits.
No one is saying don’t look at new research, or new data, and take some time to head out into the fresh air, but this kind of panicky content can be scary when this was our mobile phone! We are dealing with something new – something we didn’t have when we were growing up – the way young people use them may seem unfamiliar, scary, and therefore hard to deal with… we need to take it seriously, and ask questions of it – but it needs to be studied objectively and responsibly – not as an expectation that it will be all the technology’s fault.
If conversation stalls, one of these video – each about 3 mins: https://youtu.be/k9o-lpKktbs (US) https://youtu.be/BpmoLgWGI9w (Aus)
A brief overview of the changing capabilities of children, drawing upon psychological insights – essentially younger = ‘walled garden’, older = ‘deeper insights/awareness of support’ (drawn from my book):
Pre-school: Children’s lives are focused strongly on family and the home, especially on developing relationships with the key adults in their lives. At this age children have little ability to differentiate between reality and fantasy, so find violence and emotional scenes hard to handle. Their “online diet” needs to be supervised and restricted in respect of both content and time. Five to 11 years: As children start school, they begin to develop relationships with more people outside the family, including learning the social norms of friendships with other children, learning right and wrong, and distinguishing reality from fantasy. At this age parents need to allow greater freedoms, but still within boundaries and accompanied by more discussion, enabling the child to develop their own critical evaluation and self-management skills as well as being supported when they cannot, or maybe, choose not to. 11 to 14 years: This is typically an era characterised by hormones as puberty strikes, and the emphasis for children moves largely from home and the family towards the external world, their peers, and “idols” in the quest to become “independent”. This means a shift from parental identification to peer identification, requiring a degree of experimentation that may involve taking risks. Brain changes cause an inherent drive to seek out social experiences, especially online as outdoor, offline socialisation has become more restricted. They may start to actively seek out age-restricted material and games that are designed for adults, so keep the communication channels open for discussions of risk and challenging content. From 15 years onwards, officially the last stage of ‘childhood’, children take increasing responsibility for their own decisions and identities, as abstract thinking, judgement making, and own values and beliefs become fully developed. http://motherland.net/features/internet-safety-a-parents-guide/
These are the latest stats from Ofcom, which were released 16 November 2016 – so the latest information must be due in the next couple of weeks… we see here, the purple = smartphone, the green = non-smartphone. *Acres of other diagrams on this report!
As smartphones have become cheaper (and the default hand-me-down phone) we see that there is a growing number of smartphones as default, and people don’t feel empowered to change the settings….
*What about those resisting, are they just ‘being hipster’ – there was a story about it earlier in the year – can’t find it now!
There’s the social consequences of having aspects of the phone shut down – that needs a bit of parental peer discussion, and maybe leadership from schools, so parents know they’re not the only one saying no, or shutting aspects off, or investigating their children’s phones, etc.
You may decide to buy, but don’t chuck them into that world without support, any more than you would chuck them in a pool without swimming lessons, on a bike without stabilisers, or in a car without lessons…
If the child of one of my friends leaves their mobile carelessly lying around, or leaves it behind at an event, they lose the use of it for the length of time it would have taken to replace it, in order to teach them responsibility. (Raising Children, p140)
You might also consider, e.g. that everyone in the family puts their phones downstairs to charge overnight – so no phones in rooms after a certain time, no phones at the dinner table, etc. The more this can be done in discussion rather than as dictates, the better…
You could even go as far as Janell Hofmann, who gave her son an iPhone but with a “contract”….
”… which finishes with: “You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.” This went viral in 2012, and demonstrates a good awareness of technology use – and of parenting (so far as I can see)
This is the core of much of what I say – it’s about education, and it’s about digital literacy. I wrote my book Raising Children, because many people seemed unprepared and assumed that children are ‘digital natives’ who can work this stuff out on their own. You need to be prepared for difficult conversations about what they’ll see online, about the fact that what they share online can’t be pulled back, encourage them to learn how to use the settings to manage their own privacy settings, but also those of their friends (move beyond liberal individualism towards a care for the wider community, and the possibilities the tech gives them to help the world) … NSPCC has moved towards discussing the positives of digital with children, and have found this gets a better response to the more difficult content that needs to be shared…
Now, we know that kids are always going to push boundaries, and if children are now getting phones as young as e.g. 8, then they’re far too young for social networks (something the Children’s Commissioner is discussing with the social networks). 13 is the official age, so this social media contract for under 13s is a curiosity in some ways – it’s a balance between allowing children that you know are capable into the space, and breaching terms and conditions which doesn’t seem to provide the best role model (and some of them may be thankful to be spared the pressures of social media by just saying ‘my parents won’t allow it’).
There are plenty of examples online, different ones providing inspiration for different ages… sit down and talk about it as a family, and there might be different rules for different members depending upon age/ability, etc.
As young people develop their identities they need guidance and support, particularly from the significant adults in their lives. The behaviour that those adults model, whether it’s with regard to digital technologies or great historical events such as the Holocaust, or even in the way the cleaner is treated, is important in helping children define their own identity, values, and attitudes.
Elaine Halligan of The Parent Practice warns that 80 per cent of parenting is modelling: “If your mobile is surgically attached to your hip 24/7, don’t be surprised if your teenagers have trouble letting go.” A friend of mine said their child would bring their phone to them, as this was what seemed to get the most attention. They made a decision to put all phones down at the door, at least until the child went to bed. (Raising Children, p101)
On the other hand, you can also model good ways to use the technology – e.g. my 5 year old niece uses my brother or SIL’s account to talk to me – using lots of emojis, and gets a bit of excitement talking to her aunty and brightening my day! She’s learning from a young age to use it as a natural – but not overwhelming part of her life!
We need to move beyond the assumption that children on phones = bad!
Anyone know what they are actually doing? Yes, researching the painting – between themselves!
Hear a lot about teenagers being engaged in their phones ALL the time – lots of debate about whether it’s because they are limited by living inside (outside world not safe), by parents spending too long online, etc… (typical media headline, look behind the picture… )
Look at the way the CofE has been using social media to reach out in new ways to people who may not come through the front door…
New way to reach people – 22,000 using the daily prayer app, which would fill St Pauls Cathedral x 6, most Instagram users are under 34, etc. there’s opportunities there, but we need to get past the things we think we know are bad about mobile phones!
See reports - https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2017/09/2017/10/church-of-england-reaches-more-than-a-million-on-social-media-every-month.aspx
Dr Rachel Jordan, the Church of England's National Mission and Evangelism Adviser, said: "The Church of England has taken seriously the challenge of ageing congregations and is sharpening its focus and work on the opportunities of reaching new generations in different ways - church growth starts young. Our digital presence has been boosted by the work of the Renewal and Reform programme investing in an excellent team communicating effectively with millions through digital campaigns."
Returning to another article (different author, but still the LSE blog), I wanted to mention the question of screentime, as parents are continually told to ‘put down that tablet, take them outside, etc.’, rather than considering that, as with food, there is some that is better quality than others, and it’s less about the time itself (though Am Assoc Pediatrics 2 hour rule is constantly raised, although they re-assessed it last year too), than about what they are DOING (again, related to what you know about the individual child)….
*E.g. niece and use of Facebook has been great this past month…
If you want them to go outside think about last summer’s big mobile gaming hit Pokemon – still a steady number of dedicated users… and it got me in conversations with my nieces and nephews, and lots of others found a way to get themselves outside on a regular basis (I can’t go to the gym at the moment, so I go out and push myself to the next Pokestop – and every day for the streak), conversations with others at Pokegyms, etc.!
Geocaching has a steady family fan base – basically digital treasure hunt, where you’re looking for geocaches by using their GPS location points, then swapping items in/out, registering that you’ve found them – although ensuring that the ‘muggles’ around you don’t see what you’re doing..
Other apps come and go too… and can use e.g. enthusiasm for a topic such as football to look up tips on YouTube, and then go out and try them … or fix a puncture, etc… gives a certain amount of independence!
From my book chapter awaiting publication: We have heard of four-year-olds addicted to iPads, requiring expensive detoxification therapy, Chinese children sent to military boot-camps for addiction therapy, but the 2012 EU Kids Online project discovered that nearly half of the children questioned were happy to describe themselves as addicted (if no specific definition was offered), as in many ways the term is seen as a “badge of honour”. It was also found that only about ten per cent demonstrated true signs of addiction. It can be an unhelpful term to use, for children and adults, in the same way that we wouldn’t describe most of those who drink alcohol as alcoholics, even if they drink to excess on occasion. Those who do tend to struggle with digital technologies are those who are likely to struggle no matter what – their addictive personality is more likely to be at the root of the problem, rather than the technology itself. With the ubiquity of digital, in the same way as police crime figures are noted as containing more references to Facebook and Twitter – because more people are using them – increasing addiction to technology, or the material that it gives access to is incredibly unsurprising.
Antony Mayfield, a digital consultant, notes that we like to believe that we’re in thrall to our devices (2010): “Oh, I must take this call”, but the machines don’t care what we do. Signs of true addiction will be the same as for any other addiction, increasing activity to get the original ‘high’, withdrawal symptoms when disconnected, increasing conflict or disconnection with those in the social circle, the likelihood of relapse, and evidence of the ‘sunk cost’ fallacy: not wanting to abandon something after so much time has been sunk into it. It is interesting to note that we’ll frequently talk about internet addiction, but this accusation is not made at those whose noses are buried in a ‘good book’, or a newspaper. There’s something about the digital that attracts particular criticism, and we need to consider whether it is valid condemnation, or whether any of our habits or lifestyles, when viewed as a whole, require more consideration. In contemporary society, the outside world can feel unsafe, particularly for children, and therefore, we spend more time inside our homes, where it becomes natural to pick up our mobile devices and engage with our online connections. We regularly hear in the news that melatonin production is being affected by the lights on our electronic devices as kept in our rooms. It’s worth keeping up to date with the debates on the latest health discussions relating to technology, experiment with, for example, leaving your phone out of the room, and see if life changes for the better.
This is an extract from a piece looking at a study of independent school use of phones – all the media outlets spun it as a negative story, but within it was this kind of content … demonstrating that many children are working out how to use digital intelligently … again, talking to each other, peer reinforcement, parental guidance, and not demonising the technology is going to help this!
Sherry Turkle claims that lack of disconnected downtime disrupts ties to other people and adds emotional stress. In conversation with eighteen-year-olds, she asked when they last were able to be free of interruptions, but they didn’t see digital media as interruptions but as the beginning of connections. Research indicates that a large number of teenagers would love to be able to unplug, especially as they feel that their online communications are being so heavily monitored. A significant number, however, said that this would make them feel more stressed, because they have invested so much time in their “digital space”, and even more because their parents fear letting them out of the door.
Phones have become embedded in our lives, we use them for everything, as do children … if we suggest that the solution is to take their phones out of their hands and pretend they’ve never been invented – we’re not really dealing with the issues at hand!
What does the phone really have ‘in it’ – diaries, books, people, etc. and it’s not so much about an online/offline dichotomy as I wrote in that recent book chapter…
Clearly you can tell from how I’ve worded it where I stand…
'Left to their own devices' for #PremDac17
Left to their own devices
Dr Bex Lewis
Senior Lecturer, Digital Marketing, Manchester Metropolitan
University; Director: Digital Fingerprint; Author: Raising Children
in a Digital Age (2014)
HAVE smartphones destroyed a generation?
“Giving lip service to the difference between correlations and causality, as
Twenge does at several points, is not enough. ‘Of course, these analyses don’t
unequivocally prove that screen time causes unhappiness’, she writes (her
emphasis). ‘[I]t’s possible that unhappy teens spend more time online’. In
fact, the analyses she refers to don’t prove causality at all, let alone
unequivocally. At another point Twenge writes that ‘Depression and suicide
have many causes; too much technology is clearly not the only one’. In fact,
we don’t know (at least from the evidence she presents) that it is a cause at
An ideal time to discuss mobile phone boundaries with your
child is the day you buy their first one. These should include:
– sticking to a budget
– the use they can put it to/any access you may have
– understanding what to do about security if the phone gets
stolen/limiting the chances of it being stolen
– knowing what will happen if they lose or break it
Mobile phone boundaries?
• Interactive: The child should be required to do something, otherwise they may just as well be
watching TV; interaction means they will be engaged in what they are doing and learning
• Complementary: A link to current school subjects, hobby or a day’s activity. Repetition and
variation will support learning.
• Variety: Learning happens every day in a variety of ways, both direct and indirect. Children
benefit from variety and making choices. Interactive screens are part of the variety.
• Moderation: Don’t let it be the only way they learn. Too much of any single thing can be
detrimental. Keep mixing it up.
• Age-appropriate: Just as we consider the appropriateness of the films our children watch, the
same consideration needs to be given to the content they consume on a tablet.
It’s not about the time, but the content
Geocaching and Pokemon Go
It is interesting to note that we’ll frequently talk about internet
addiction, but this accusation is not made at those whose noses
are buried in a ‘good book’, or a newspaper. There’s something
about the digital that attracts particular criticism, and we need
to consider whether it is valid condemnation, or whether any
of our habits or lifestyles, when viewed as a whole, require
Question of addiction?
Charlotte Robertson, the co-founder of Digital Awareness UK,
said: “We speak to thousands of students on a daily basis about
safe internet use and while it’s a matter of concern to see the
emotional impact social media is having on young people’s
health and wellbeing, it’s encouraging to see that they are also
employing smart strategies such as digital detoxing to take
control of their social media use.
Social Media Backlash?
“Some have tested extreme detoxes. Susan Maushart, writing for the Daily
Mail, undertook a six-month “technology blackout” for her entire family,
which she viewed as a consciousness raising exercise rather than a long-term
strategy.7 Paul Millar, a technology journalist, disconnected from the internet
for a year but found that, after the initial feeling of “freedom”, he picked up
other bad habits. He ignored his post and his friends, allowed the dust to
gather on his exercise equipment, failed to turn boredom into creativity, and
sat and did nothing. On analysing this for an article for The Verge magazine,
he was able to make more informed technology choices once he
reconnected.” Raising Children in a Digital Age, p181
Tech ‘time out’
“In some ways, it seems difficult to explain the power of social media on my
everyday life, including my academic life, because I’m so embedded within it,
that many things have just become ‘normal’. If I need some ideas, some
quotes, some suggestions of readings, I will just put a post up, and see what
catches people’s attention, but it goes much deeper than that! I always want
to emphasise the importance of online/offline interactions, and how the lines
between them have blurred more and more as the years have gone on.
Potential collaborations start online, and lead to offline meet-ups, or a
conversation starts offline, and the ideas continue flowing online. Sometimes
they stay fully online, and that’s fine too!”
‘Bex Lewis’, in Ord, T. Theologians and Philosophers on Social Media, 2017
It’s not just ‘the kids’…
1. Should we resist giving (smart) phones
to children until as late as possible?
2. Should we recognise that phones now have multi-
functional uses and we need to help our children to
use them well?
• Seek to understand what/how they are using
– Not just the latest ‘moral panic’
• Negotiate boundaries: write family agreements
• Talk to them, listen to them
• Be alongside them - especially in the early years
• Consider your own habits
Do not … leave them to their own devices
Thanks for your participation
(2014) (2017) (2017)