As the IT Coordinator and Teacher for Jackson School I often wonder if the right balance is being achieved between the use of technology to engage and educate, versus students going outside and getting their necessary daily exercise. Having trained a number of martial arts over many years I value the health benefits and balance that they bring to my life, particularly during times of stress. So how do we help our children and students who don't know how to regulate their behaviours and don't have the freedom to go to a gym or sports group at their own desire? What can you do when you want your child to switch off from the latest version of Angry Birds or Talking Tom?
With the introduction of our 1:1 iPad program, students at Jackson School now have more access to modern technology and on demand digital content than ever before. The ability to download free apps and videos at the touch of a screen is potentially an addictive and dangerous circumstance without adult guidance and boundaries, but the responsibility shouldn't be placed on one party in particular. Rules, boundaries, and limitations (can you pick who that's from?) need to be put in place so that our children and students aren't left to develop bad habits that could potentially impact on their lives in negative ways. We also need to make sure that when kids aren't engaged with technology they're using their time productively,
How can you get active and creative with technology and your child?
Every student who brings an iPad to Jackson School is gifted a list of 'essential apps' that enable them to make anything from movie trailers and films, original animations, interactive books, and music. The students at Jackson School are a highly talented bunch so ask your child to show you how to make a movie or a book and take part in the activity with them. Teachers love seeing students who've been creative outside of school and will happily let them share it with their peers.
Another great way to use technology and gaming in a physical way can be through the Xbox Kinect. The Kinect has numerous games that use its motion tracking technology to interact with the game, such as Just Dance, Kinect Party, and Kinect Sports. The devices are very cheap now (<$150) and are a breeze to setup. We use them extensively in Jackson School and students are always very eager to sweat it out to the latest pop tracks or go a for a great game of bowling.
Tips for parents and carers when managing technology at home:
- Limit screen-time to less than 2 hours per day. (Australia’s Physical Activity Recommendations)
- Make sure your kids switch off from tech at least 2 hours before bedtime. Screens like those found in tablets, TVs and other modern devices are known to disrupt sleep-cycles and negatively impact upon an individual's ability to fall asleep in a timely manner.
- Avoid having games like Talking Tom, Temple Run, Angry Birds and other repetitive tap style games. They promote 'stimming' (specific behaviours such as flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words or behaviours) in children who have Autism and many professionals have cited concerns over the abusive behaviours towards animals that Talking Tom and Friends promotes.
- Set restrictions on your child's device(s) so that access to inappropriate content is minimised.
- Meaningful conversation and interaction are paramount in a child's language development. Make sure that tablets and smartphones aren't the babysitter or distraction at the dinner table or on family outings.
- Make sure you can always monitor what your child is doing on their devices, particularly when communicating with others online. If they're using codes or passwords, make sure you know them.
- Remove tech like TV's, computers, mobile phones, and iPads from your child's room if they're unable to regulate how they use them e.g. playing video games into the late hours of the night.