On Monday 8th February, GDST hosted a virtual talks by Charlotte Robertson, UK’s leading digital rights activist, YouTuber, mother of two and co-founder of online safety organisation Digital Awareness UK. Charlotte regularly campaigns in the media and in Parliament, while also talking with parents and students, as well as engaging with school communities and organisations around the world in order to empower young people not only to survive, but also thrive online. To mark Safer Internet Day 2021, Charlotte’s GDST Talks e-presentation was focussed on the topic of How To Be Tech Role Models For Our Children.
This GDST Talks event was best suited for parents with children in Year 3 to Year 13, but as many of us not only spend increasing amounts of time online, but are becoming more conscious about wanting to manage our screen time more effectively, this talk was most helpful for adults as well. Particularly those that are aware of changing technologies and platforms (have you joined in the hype surrounding The Clubhouse yet?) and want to make sure that our wellbeing and headspace aren’t negatively impacted on the continuous basis.
Charlotte started with a story from one of the workshops she was doing with Year 10 students. During the session she asked the children who their online role models were and one child replied that it was… his Dad. This shifted the atmosphere in the room and led to one of the most memorable discussions for Charlotte and her audience. And here lies the important thing – at times when our children start to mature and change, it might not seem so, but they do look up to us, noting how we behave and present ourselves to the world. In fact research says that 80% of parenting we do comes from role modelling. How we eat, talk, exercise, interact with others, behave, express ourselves or spend time online – all of that applies to the example we set for our children.
After listening and learning with interest to Charlotte’s talk, I thought I would put the points that most resonated or drew attention in a post, so hopefully you will find them useful as well.
- It’s not about perfection.
- Parents often feel on the tech blackfoot compared to their children.
- Tech has been helpful during the pandemic, yet many still feel intimidated or unsettled by it.
- A lot of the problems children deal with online – bullying, am I pretty enough, validation, insecurity, looks – are old world social problems and parents, often without even realising it, are helping their children thrive online by building up their self-esteem and humility. Being kind, having a good moral compass, being resilient, having good judgement, thinking critically – teach children about importance of those qualities.
- Digital wellbeing – eating, sleeping, exercising, socialising face-to-face. When we think about ‘limiting’ screen time, think about it in terms of what it takes time from? Walking vs screen for example. Eating while reading something on the phone and getting a double dopamine release. Blue light being emitted from screens at night and disrupting sleep patterns and body recovery.
- Consider “sharenting” aka sharing our children’s images online without their consent and oversharing. Think critically!
- Create healthy boundaries. No tech at meal time. No tech in bedrooms, particularly at nighttime.
- Invite kids into the decision process – when shall devices be turned off? What time?
- Communicate your use. Diaries, bills, schooling…..
- Acknowledge failures when it comes to boundaries due to lockdown, virtual learning, schooling, working. Be open when you are not doing so well.
- Do what is right for your situation. Some parents have no rules at home regarding tech. Others are so busy, they hardly are on tech or social media. Create your own family tech code.
- Kids need to understand why some content is blocked.
- Wellbeing tools – iPhone, Settings, Screen time – explains how much time you spend online and where. Set the ‘downtime’ – switch off at a certain time, say 9pm. Lots of good features.
- Taking regular breaks. Many gamers see themselves as sportsmen and pay attention to rest, sleep exercise. That;s something worth knowing.
- Optometry and eyes. 20-20-20 rule. When we look at screens we don’t blink much, eyes aren’t as moist. Headaches can come on. Every 20 minutes for 20 seconds looks at something 20 meters away. It exercises eyes and gives them a break! Maybe a nudge on the phone – show this habit with kids.
- Use ‘don’t disturb’ or ‘autoplay’ notification toggle on YouTube or Netflix. Be a more conscious tech user.
- Use grey scale mode. Colour keeps us interested. If you have tech on black and white, it might not be so tempting to scroll for too long.
- Switch off an hour before bed. Simply because social media can be intense.
- Look at data on FitBit or iWatch or Oura ring on sleep cycles. Deep sleep vs Light Sleep. Having the data and seeing the change – in productivity, performance is quite persuasive. Take it on as a family challenge .)
- Encourage voice notes and video calls – lessens miscommunication.
- Turn rooter off or use low data mobile phone contract.
- Empower through education. Why can’t I sleep with my phone? Why can’t I work with my laptop in my lap? Explain everyday things to kids and their importance. After all kids ask many reasonable questions, so we need to provide good answers.
- Digital parenting courses – on eye strain, posture. Staying informed is important – the more we know the why’s, the better we are to address them.
- Parental controls and how to override them. They are effective on Apple and Android. There are young people who feel the pull of tech. Some kids have over consumed and now want to have a break.
- Be transparent about your own work and tech use. Get some fresh air. Commit to stopping on time when you work.
- Tik Tok with kids. Game with them.
- We’ve all been forced to control and manage tech as we don’t know when lockdown ends and life resumes.
- A lot of kids are leaving social media. Watch ‘Social Dilemma’ documentary on Netflix. Clever wiring on tech platforms – thing critically about who uses your data, how are your feeling being being steered or manipulated. Consider the issue of privacy. Are there more ethical platforms on the horizon? Meaningful conversations are important.
- Trust your instinct when your child feels left out when everyone else is using a particular platform or app and they are not.
- Encourage meaningful & productive screen time. Apple Genie workshops, online coding courses etc. Convert screen time into something meaningful based on your kids interests.
To learn more about Digital Awareness platform please click here (the link is not sponsored or affiliated): Digital Awareness
To watch a full GDST Talk with Charlotte Robertson: How To Be A Tech Role Model on YouTube, please click here