Strike a balance

2017-11-01 06:01

With exams high on the agenda, many parents consider new house rules around technology use, screen time and social media.

However, Nola Payne, education expert of the Independent Institute of Education, cautions that a total ban on social media interaction may not be the solution.

Payne says that helping children to build a healthy relationship with technology and knowing how much is enough continues to be a challenge for parents. Exam time throws a whole new spanner in the works.

“However, it is necessary to review and agree on how devices, especially social media, will be used during this period, but parents and guardians should play an active role in helping young people to strike the right balance,” she advises.

The concern is that parents will face a lot of resistance if they implement a total ban on social media interaction, which will not be conducive to a positive study environment.

“Matric and other exams are already very stressful and social media can help learners and students unwind and let off steam by sharing their concerns, clearing up study material confusion and encouraging each other.

“A better approach would be to rather restrict social media during focussed one- to two-hour study sessions so that concentration is not interrupted. Allow it during breaks, preferably away from the desk, in conjunction with a healthy snack and some fresh air.”

Parents are advised to assist their children in building a healthy relationship with technology from an early age, noting that technology has become an integral part of children’s lives.

“While there are of course dangers and concerns, technology has also brought many advantages and opportunities. Our child­ren need to build a set of skills, hard skills and common sense ones, around technology, as it will always be a huge part of their lives.

“That can either be when researching school work, investigating higher education options or searching for career opportunities, or whether for entertainment or engaging with social media contacts.”

She says that approaching technology positively and pragmatically right from the start can help families engage better.

“It can improve their resourcefulness, open up new avenues for learning and help them better understand how to manage social interactions.”

Payne says parents need to be honest about their own concerns and should support and mentor their children by creating the right environment in the online world, as they would in the offline world.

“Encourage the learning, whe­ther it is online or offline, but set boundaries and time limits on digital engagement, study me­thods (which should also include pen and paper and not just digital learning) and also digital social interactions during exam time.

“There are thousands of mobile apps and software applications that support learning in a fun and constructive way, and that can ensure that study time is in fact study time, and not Facebook time in disguise.”

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