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CHILDREN | 26 JUN 2019

The iGen: Today’s Super-Connected Kids

Born after 2000, they have grown up with mobile phones. They are the generation where every part of their lives is immersed in technology. They do not know life without the internet. Don’t know an answer – ask Google. What is a Gregory’s map? Where do I go? Ask Google Maps. Don’t know where your friends are – Snapchat not only shows where they are but what they are doing, and who they are with.

By 12 years old in Australia, 92% of kids own a smartphone. Our kids are one of the most connected in the world – yet our anxiety and depression rates are increasing so that by Year 9, 1 in 6 kids have a diagnosed anxiety or depression disorder. Our rates of loneliness have increased so much that the UK has appointed a loneliness minister to help combat this epidemic.

Teachers are noticing in schools that they are having to focus more and more on early social skills.

So are smartphones the cause?

Are they the evil devices that we sometimes make them out to be?

The answer is complicated – phones allow us to connect easily to others wherever we are, it allows to get information at the touch of our fingertips.

In the latest Australian research from Mission Australia (2018), where they surveyed thousands of young Australians, they found that kids are drinking less and having sex slightly later because they are not going to parties as much, but connecting on the phone. Researchers are saying that optimally, children and young people need a mixture of online friends and real-life friends.

So how do we balance the need to be on devices and having screen-free time?

  1. From a young age set limits on how much time they spend on devices. Research is now stating kids up to the age of approximately 4 years have minimal exposure to devices – to increase those early social skills
  2. Parents get to know and understand the different social apps your young people are using and different gaming devices
  3. Model behaviour whereby parents set themselves periods of screen-free time
  4. Set limits of no screen time at least 45mins before bed. This will help with sleep for everyone
  5. As a family get out and do stuff together – sport, walking, etc and leave devices at home
  6. Family Dinners or dinners out – encourage kids and young people to not have them at the table – it helps with conversation skills in the earlier years. It also helps to increase your child’s social skills and, most importantly, it increases connection with family.

Devices aren’t evil – they are tools, but as parents, we need to help our kids and young people navigate them, just as we do with their other life issues.

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