One recurring theme that comes up fairly frequently in my work is that of technology use (and abuse). I came across a recently published book “The Tech Diet for your Child & Teen: The 7-step plan to unplug & reclaim your kid’s childhood (and save your family’s sanity)” written by Australian psychologist Brad Marshall*. My first thoughts were that I’d read it and summarize the seven steps he suggests thus solving everyone’s problem with this issue.
Unfortunately, that’s not practical, so rather than presenting you with a summary, I’m going to urge all parents to consider obtaining a copy of the book. I feel that it will be a well-spent $22-$30. If you want to have a look at the Contents and read a portion of it, check out the link to it on Amazon. (If finances are problematic, the Moreton Bay Regional Library has 5 copies available – see link below). It’s an easy, informative read. Children are growing up in a very different world from that of their parents. Access to the internet was limited, slow, and expensive, while personal devices were unheard of, so it’s impossible to look at what worked in our family of origin. Coupled with that is the constant change in technology use. I have mentioned in the past that today’s children are part of a huge social experiment unlike any other. Nobody knows the long term physical, social and emotional effects.
Marshall writes that, “even the most tech-savvy parents struggle to understand the allure of modern-day gaming”(p18). His explanation of the science and how gaming works is vital reading for all parents, I think. You might be thinking your child is too young to be into gaming, but do you allow them to play educational games? The time to establish and implement healthy boundaries for tech use is when children are young. Trying to establish boundaries with a 16 year old who’s had none before is going to be fraught with difficulty.
He speaks about the five developmental domains that he looks for when assessing young people – Social; Educational; Behavioral; Emotional and Health. He provides a list of warning signs for each domain and ask parents to consider whether this could be a problematic area for their child.
In conclusion, does Marshall advocate banning technology use? No, of course not! His experience is that going cold turkey rarely works. What he urges is balance and suggests that parents need to guide their children to enjoy technology, but at limits that aren’t going to impact their development in all five domains. He provides some practical strategies for parents to implement at home to help their children find a healthy balance with technology. Be warned though, it’s not necessarily going to be easy!