Good news for parents feeling the techno-shame of exceeding the hideously outdated screen time guidelines touted by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) since 2001 — well before digital life, as we know it, began to swipe, tap, beep, and buzz around us.
Rather than attempting to squeeze screen time into just two hours per day for youngsters over five years, a feat that researchers from the University of South Australia deemed ‘virtually impossible,’ the AAP has ditched the time-based recommendations and replaced them with 12 principles to guide parenting in the 21st century.
These guidelines take a leap towards recognising the virtual reality of many families, where there is an increasing emphasis on learning with technology, yet there’s scarce direct teaching of the soft skills required to avoid the curses of excessive and compulsive use.
While commentators regularly bemoan the fact that young people prefer their screens to conversations with their grandmas, likening devices to illicit drugs and calling for a war on smartphones — they fail to recognise the positive aspects of digital cultures and the opportunities to harness technology to improve outcomes in education, mental health and wellbeing.
The fact is, grandmas are the fastest growing group of gamers in Australia and, as our lives reach peak Wi-Fi saturation, the stereotypes surrounding technology use are changing as rapidly as Edward Snowden is gathering Twitter followers.
Fostering Digital Citizenship skills is more important than the need for primary schoolers to learn coding as a second language. While a range of high quality, effective resources address preventing cyber-bullying and cyber-safety, few are designed to thwart the temptations of the dopamine-fuelled digital world.