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Screen use and lockdowns!

We are currently in an unprecedented time for most of our generation, where a state of emergency has shut down all but essential services, and sent our kids home from school.

This is a perfect time to reflect on the benefits that digital technologies can bring to the classroom, as well as to look at practical strategies to keep our children learning safely online. While the SSU website is focused on the use of screens in education, with caregivers working from home and limitations to social interaction, screen use will play a bigger role for many.

During this lockdown, remote learning can allow for social connection with classmates (via zoom links), continued structure and learning outside the classroom, as well as opportunities to use a range of fantastic online free resources to explore topics. Without repeating the huge amount of links available online at present, these range from educational tutorials such as Kahn academy, documentaries, virtual museum tours, art and movement classes and many other free links. Extracurricular activities from ballet to drama have shifted online, letting kids participate and maintain continuity with their normal routines; while for others, this period has allowed a break from the busyness of life for kids and parents alike.

With screen recommendations for this period, some experts have suggested that screen use should continue to be limited, following AAP guidelines, while others have said don’t worry about it at all - the most important thing is to not be parenting with high stress. An excellent point made by CCFC, is that this is a time of uncertainty, and no piece of advice will apply to every family or situation.

Neuroscientist Nathan Wallis recommends that during this lockdown, limits still be in place with no screen use for 0 -18 months old’s, less than an hour for under 5’s, and to have at least 2 hours of dedicated screen free time in the day for older children/teens.

Keeping a balance of digital and non-digital learning particularly for younger children is great if it’s possible, and getting kids outdoors for a few hours is always recommended for eye health as well as physical and mental health. For recreation, choosing non-violent non-commercial media that is meaningful for kids is a good guideline from CCFC, as is scheduling in free play.

But - it’s important to remember that short term, it’s unlikely that high screen use in itself will cause any great harm. Exposure to harmful content however, can put children at risk.

To limit this risk, making sure you have good parental controls is important.

The Ministry of Education have reminded caregivers and whanau to discuss internet safety with children of all ages, and to agree about they can do online, including sites they can visit and appropriate behaviours such as:

· reviewing and approving games and apps before they are downloaded

· reviewing privacy settings of sites and applications

· checking children’s profiles and what they are posting online

· check the sites your child is accessing

· reminding children that anything that is posted online will be permanently on the internet

· taking the time to understand what sites they are visiting and who they are talking with and check in regularly

· some social media sites have age restrictions to join, check these before letting your child use them or join them

· monitoring a child’s use of the internet and consider having them use it in an open, common area of the house

· making sure your children know to report any activity they don’t feel comfortable with to parents and caregivers straight away.

Making sure younger children have screens in a visible communal area (and out of bedrooms) is an important point to limit risk, as currently no firewalls can protect against all harmful content. Having an agreement not to meet online friends without permission (and understanding why) is also useful.

This is an important time to stay connected with friends and whanau, and a good opportunity to share our kids screen use and to find out what is meaningful to them.

Stay safe!

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