Five technology tips for home

Screen time: How to set a good example.
Screen time: How to set a good example. Photo: Getty

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Next time you reach into your pocket for your smart phone, think of this: this device that you use every day far exceeds the power of the $150,000 computer that guided the Apollo missions to space.  As technology gets more powerful and more portable, it is becoming increasingly embedded in everyday life. Wearable technology allows us to track our habits, and motivate change.

Apple recently released its highly anticipated Apple Watch. This brings news and social media to your wrist. It will let you know when you have been too sedentary, and remind you to get up and move. The possibilities are very exciting for many fields, including education.

Mentone Girls' Grammar School's eLearning Manager, Michelle Dennis, says as adults, it's our responsibility to decide what technology our children can access and when. "This can be a difficult decision for parents, particularly when it comes to new devices." Michelle shares her top 5 tips for technology management at home.

1. Set explicit guidelines early

It is far better to help your child develop healthy habits with technology early than to battle with them about their usage when it is already ingrained in their behaviours. Set a goal for how you want your child to use technology as an adult – confidently, safely and mindfully.

With this in mind, have a discussion with your child about how you expect them to use technology, and revisit the topic at least every six months or when a new technology product is introduced into the family. Apple recently introduced Family Sharing and Child Accounts, so if you want your young child to have an iPhone for safety reasons, you can restrict their access to the internet and apps.

2. Watch for overuse

The feeling of connectedness that can come from phones and social media can be seductive. A recent study found that teenagers in Japan were spending an average of seven hours a day on their smart phones. Talk to your child about what unhealthy technology use might look like in a friend. Use examples like:

  • Spending more time looking at their phone than talking to you.
  • Spending more time playing video games than doing homework.
  • Feeling distressed to be away from technology for too long.

3. Technology-free zones

It is important to set aside time and places where your child can refresh their mind without technology. Appropriate technology-free zones include the dinner table or the bedroom. The bedroom is a particularly important place to avoid technology as it can significantly impact sleep. 'Screen-free Sundays' can be a great way to re-energise family weekends.

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4. Set a good example

Parents are one of the greatest role models for children and teens. Think about your expectations for how you want your child to use technology and try to model those. That means putting the phone on silent during dinner breaks and resisting the urge to check emails during 'quiet time'.

5. Talk about cyber safety

Make sure that your child has a set of trusted adults that they can talk to if they see something disturbing online. In addition to yourself, this could include aunts, uncles and teachers. If they do come to you with a concern, try not to punish them by taking away the technology – they might not come to you again if you do.

In partnership with your school, you can work towards building healthy habits with technology and protect your child online. For example, the Mentone Girls' Grammar School eSmart program educates students on how to be safe and respectful online, and how to use technology in a way that adds to their life and learning, rather than being harmful to their wellbeing.