IT for Young People

There has been much media coverage over the past week regarding Australian teenagers and the amount of time they spend on their mobiles or electronic devices. New data from the Children and Safety Commission states that Australian teenagers are the biggest internet users in the developed world, spending an extra hour online each day compared to teenagers in many other OECD countries. Further, young people between 14 and 17 years of age spend 23 hours online outside of school each week, with 80% using social media. As we all know there are two sides to these statistics. Internet learning anywhere, anytime, is student centred and can be one of the best type of learning. On the other hand, using the Internet for non-educational purposes at the expense of exercise, socialising or sleeping can be detrimental to the health of young adolescents.

May I remind all parents of some of the tips St Mary’s College has given to assist parents to manage IT at home? I encourage you to read these tips and implement them where possible and applicable.

• Even though video games will keep your child occupied and quiet, limit the amount of time allowed to be spent on this activity. Your son needs physical exercise, social interaction, conversation and time for creative activities. Decide what is the right amount of time and stick to it even when they tell you, “Everybody else is doing it!”
• Turn off computers, mobile phones and all electronic devices at a set time each night. Set parameters around bedtime. Make sure your son does not turn on his device again or use in bed during the night or in the early hours of the morning. Lock them away if need be.
• Surfing the Internet is the same as watching TV and playing video games. Using the Internet for research, or the word processor for homework, is a different type of activity and is more akin to studying and writing.
• Have your children keep a TV and/or video game diary or log to see how much time they spend on these activities.
• Do not make any particular program “off limits” for children twelve years old and over. If you do, they will most likely just watch it somewhere else. Instead, be sure to view it together and at the end of the show turn off the TV and discuss what you have seen.
• Brainstorm ideas for activities your child would like to do instead of watching TV or using the computer. Keep an ongoing list of these activities on the fridge or some other prominent place.
• Limit television viewing to a total of ten hours a week or less.
• Have at least one day a week in your home when the TV or computer is not turned on at all, except for homework or Internet research.
• Encourage reading in your home. Limit your own TV viewing and read a good book instead. Follow up on an interesting TV program by finding a book in the library on the same topic or theme. There are many appropriate books for children of all ages.
• Speak out against and discuss commercials or programs which show complex problems being solved by engaging in violence, taking a pill, or coming up with an easy but unrealistic solution.
• Set aside a “study time” in your home every night. No activities other than studying (assigned homework or studying a topic of individual interest) should be allowed during study time.

As a support to parents, St Mary’s College prides itself on being only a phone call away to partner you in directing your son to use IT devices in a sensible and healthy manner. Together, let us use the Internet and IT devices for good, responsible, student centred productive learning.

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