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Developing Digital Wellbeing

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posted October 8th 2018

As it’s World Mental Health Day later this week, we have been talking a lot about how we can ensure our grandchildren are supported in today’s modern world. They are growing up in a digital world dominated by technological advancements so how can we, as grandparents, support them through this ensuring they are tech savvy but also have some balance in their life.

We read a fantastic article on The Sydney’s Childrens Hospital Network website which was written by Brad Ridout, Child and Adolescent Psychologist. Brad is Deputy Chair of the Cyberpsychology Research Group at the University of Sydney.

He suggested the following tips to help develop digital wellbeing:

1. Have tech-free zones around the house
The dining room table should be a place where everyone puts their devices away and you have family time. An ‘out of sight out of mind’ approach will help prioritise family relationships and interactions. It’s also a good idea to prohibit use in their bedrooms to stop any secrecy.

2. Digital curfew
Some of the biggest health problems associated with excessive tech use stem from a negative impact on sleep. Devices like phones and tablets emit blue light which suppresses production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. Reduced sleep quality can affect concentration, academic performance, and mental and emotional health. Ideally devices should be put away at least 90 minutes before bedtime.

3. Set time limits
Whilst we should focus on understanding how children are using technology rather than just the sheer amount of screen time, setting limits is still important. Brad suggests using a timer – kids typically react better to an alarm going off than a parent or grandparent going off! He also offers a few additional tips like giving them a five minute warning and allowing them to set the timer so they feel more in control.

4. Be critically minded
Encourage your grandchild to think critically about the information they consume online, especially on social media. For example, ask them to think about who created the content – are they a trustworthy source? And remind them that social media does not necessarily reflect what people’s real life is actually like.

5. Empower your grandchildren to stay safe
We teach our grandchildren about ‘stranger danger’ from a young age, but we should also make sure they know that people are not always who they say they are online. Social media sites are usually set to ‘public’ by default, so make sure privacy settings are at the highest level from the start. Talk to your grandchild about their internet use, asking about who they talk to online – be interested but non-judgmental. Remind them also that they should never share anything personal online – not their address or date of birth for example. This level of openness will allow you to recognise any potential issues, and make your grandchild feel more comfortable to come to you if they have anything they are concerned about.

6. Remember – the internet is forever!
It’s important your grandchild understands that every comment they make or picture they share online is tracked and recorded, even if deleted, creating a digital footprint that could come back to bite them later in life. A good rule to follow is if you wouldn’t be happy for your grandmother or a future employer to see something, don’t post it. Another is to never write anything that you wouldn’t say to someone face-to-face.

7. Balance screen time with green time
Make sure time online does not come at the expense of time outdoors. As long as our grandchildren are getting enough time each day to play and be physically active, get enough sleep and interact face-to-face with family and friends, we can stop obsessing over their screen time because it’s unlikely to be harmful.

Read the Children and screen time factsheet by Kids Health Australia which can be found on the The Sydney’s Childrens Hospital Network website

And if you are ever concerned, organisations like the NSPCC can always offer support and advice.

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