Dr Kristy Goodwin helps modern parents, educators and health professionals understand what young children, aged 0-12 years really need to thrive in a digital world.
Dr Kristy Goodwin helps modern parents, educators and health professionals understand what young children, aged 0-12 years really need to thrive in a digital world.

'Techno-tantrums': How to raise kids in a digital world

ONE expert is calling on change to the way people view technology use in children and teenagers.

Dr Kristy Goodwin is a former early childhoood teacher and now academic who specialises in sharing information with parents on how to best manage their children's online activity and to feel empowered, not fearful of technology.

The mother of two recently hosted her workshop, Raising Digital Kids-Parent Seminar at Orion Springfield and said she hoped to arm parents with the facts, not just the fears.

"My hope through these workshops is to help get rid of the guilt and guess work for parents about navigating the digital world with their kids," Mrs Goodwin said.

"There's a lot of the fearmongering and techno-guilt felt by parents if they're child uses technology, so I am trying to minimise that and provide parents with information so that they can walk away and make informed decisions," she said.

"Parents want more of a realistic and balanced approach and what they are really craving is awareness about what kids are doing online, not just to scare them.

"I talk to parents about research based information, but turn that into more digestible information."

Dr Goodwin said most people think the amount of time kids spend online is the key issue, but research showed it was in fact other factors including what they are looking at, where they are watching it and who they watch it with that were far more important.

"The number one question every parent wants to know about is how much is healthy and how much is harmful and I try to unpack why that's no longer the most important question," Dr Goodwin said.

"Kids definitely need limits as techno-tantrums are a real thing, but I think we need to shift the conversation from more than just how much time they're spending on their devices to look at what they're actually doing - is it educational, is it entertainment, is it leisure, is it learning, is it active, is it passive, is it age-appropriate, is it violent, is it pornographic and really hone in on that.

"Families also need to establish no-go tech zones, so I talk about five areas that should be tech free: bedrooms, bathrooms, play areas, meal areas and cars for short trips."

Dr Goodwin's five tech-free zones and the impacts of technology on children's health:

  • Bedrooms: put children at risk of cyber bullying. I often share a story about a little boy who was eight who was doing his homework in his bedroom and his parents went through his search history and he was accessing pornographic material at 1am to 2am in the morning.
  • Bathrooms: goes without saying.
  • Meal areas: again, it's not saying it has to be all the time, you might want to do movies and Mexican, whatever you choose to do is fine, but at meal areas we're missing out on conversation and connection and our kids are really noticing that too. It's also really interesting, paediatric nutritionists have seen a huge change in kids' eating habits, so kids now presenting with taste preferences and sensitivities because they're always having screen dinners and are not mindfully eating. These kids are never going to try to tricky lamb cutlet or the new flavour because you've actually got to consciously be present.
  • In the car for short trips: there are two reasons why you shouldn't have devices in the car for short trips- one is that we're seeing some provisional drivers who have formed such a dependency on their device, they've formed an association with car and device, so that when they're learning to drive or have their provisional licence it's hugely dangerous.The other reason is that from a parent's perspective, your kids actually talk to you in the car, so again it's that communication time.
  • Play areas: there is a whole lot of research on background television ,for example knowing how that impacts particularly young children.
  • Impacts on physical health: this is a really interesting one and we are only in the infancy of learning about how kids are using screens. What we're seeing is the impact on their physical health like tech neck, gaming thumb, text claw, which are all repetitive stressful injuries due to inappropriate or excessive use. Vision is also a problem as there has been a huge increase of myopia which is near sightedness, as well as noise-induced hearing loss because of incorrect headphone use.

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