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25 January 2019

How to teach children responsible tech use

Published by Jessica Anne Tay
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Technology has the potential to change a person’s life for the better. But as with everything that’s great in life, moderation and balance are crucial for getting the most from it. Connected devices are a part of everyday life so your child will want to use them from an early age. Research shows that young children can benefit greatly from exploring the functionality of these tools, so what factors should you consider for responsible use?

Discuss responsible tech use

Before you purchase a connected device such as a mobile phone or games console, have a few conversations with your child about responsible tech use. ‘What if’ scenarios are a good base to work from and will help both you and your child to think about some of the common issues. For example, you could ask them what they would do if they get caught using their phone in class. Or, discuss what would be an appropriate action should they receive a Facebook or Snapchat message from someone they don’t know.

Educate early and often

Educate early and educate often is a great mantra to follow for warning children about the dangers that can lurk on the internet, while simultaneously promoting responsible usage. A few important topics to cover include:

  • Explain the wider implications of their actions online – Let them know that any social media posts or pictures saved in the cloud can be time consuming and difficult to remove
  • Promote safety – Make sure they never enter a private chat with a complete stranger.
  • Protect privacy – Tell them never to share their mobile number, email address, home address or any other sensitive information online.
  • Focus on creativity
     

The conversation around tech use often centers on the need to limit screen time for children. But rarely does the discussion touch on some of its more positive aspects. Instead of merely settling for safe and responsible usage, why not target productive and creative usage as well? This will shift a child’s view of tech away from it being purely recreational to a means that can help them to fulfil their dreams and passions in life.

To start on the road to productive usage, think about how tech can be used in education such as projects and activities at school. You could install mobile apps for graphic design, so they can showcase their creative side. Draw their attention to free educational websites, where they can learn anything from a new language to basic computer programming skills for half an hour each night. Mixing in these educational activities with more recreational tech usage, such as watching vloggers on YouTube, will establish a better balance in how children engage with their devices from an early age.

Be positive and interact

Just taking a hard line with tech by outlining rules and limits is not the best path to take for responsible usage. Try to be positive and take your child’s thoughts and opinions on board. Two-way dialogue is best. For example, if a new video game is released, show an interest in what it’s about. Then use this as an opportunity to facilitate a conversation about compromise when it comes to how much time they can play it before its release, rather than after.

It’s also important to spend some time with them when they are using technology. Establish a line of communication so they can talk to you about any concerns or issues that they may have. You are the person they trust the most and they will look to you for guidance and assurances. As always, just being there is 90 percent of the job.

Cyber bullying

Cyber bullying is a pervasive problem on the internet. You should urge children to report cyber bullying to you or another adult in authority at school if they ever fall victim to it. Keep an eye out for warning signs that they are being bullied online, such as seeming withdrawn, being uncharacteristically quiet or prone to mood swings. Responsible use also requires a child to be vigilant about recognizing cases of bullying online. Teach them the value of respect, not just when face to face with a person, but when they are interacting with someone on social media.

Three C’s

As outlined earlier, rules and limits are a tricky area to cover as you want your child to make decisions for themselves. However, with so many connected devices in the home, certain rules should be adhered to. For example, no video games before homework is completed and scheduling times for watching videos and other content online. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to tech, use the Three C’s – content, context and the child’s needs – to determine when and how technologies should be used.

  • Content - Does the tech help your child to learn, be creative express themselves, explore and engage?     
  • Context - What social interactions are involved during the use of tech, and does it dovetail with your child’s natural play patterns and learning experiences?
  • Child’s needs - Does the tech fulfil a need and interest for your child and will it enhance their growth and development if used right now?
     

Many of the international schools in Singapore build technology into their curriculums to enrich and enhance the learning experience for their students. At the Australian International School Singapore, your child will learn how to use tech to support their studies and they will have to access to a vast range of devices and online resources from a very early age. Each Preschool class has several computers and iPads, while Secondary School students either bring their own device or use a school-issued Apple MacBook Air. Tech also plays a fundamental role in art, music, technology and other aspects of the curriculum.

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Australian International School, Singapore

The Australian International School is the only southern-hemisphere school in Singapore that offers an Australian curriculum-based global education for students from the age of 2 months to 18 years.

This truly international education begins with the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) from Preschool to Year 5, Australian Curriculum for Years 6 to 8, Cambridge IGCSE in Years 9 and 10, and the Higher School Certificate (HSC) or International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP) for Years 11 and 12.

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