Parenting in a digital tsunami
Almost all Australian teenagers (94%) and two thirds of primary school-aged children have their own mobile screen-based device, according to a 2017 survey by Australia’s Online Research Unit.
Cathy Madsen is one Canberra parent who knows this only too well.
As a wife and mother of five in primary and secondary schools, she has to cope with the plethora of devices and platforms that are part of her family’s world.
“It feels like I’m facing a tsunami of information and responsibilities, and all I’ve got to deal with it is one little bucket to try and bale out one bucket of chaos at a time,” Cathy said.
Aside from cyber bullying, stalking and other threats, her children face pressures from social media, online gaming and messaging, and the platforms used by the schools.
“When the technology comes home with the children you’ve got to deal with it the other 18 hours of the day,” she said.
Catholic Education’s Patrick Ellis said they recognise the challenges parents face navigating the digital maze.
“Schools provide education and support material for families on responsible use of technology, limiting screen time and educating students on the impact of their digital footprint,” he said.
“Most schools also run workshops and information sessions and these sessions would also provide advice on responsible use limiting screen time.”
With remote learning under way, Patrick said all schools are providing options for both online and offline learning opportunities to support families.
He underlined, however, that online devices were important to maintain connections during difficult times.
“It’s a matter of finding a sensible balance,” he said.
For parents such as Cathy Madsen finding that balance clearly comes with its challenges. But there’s one lesson she takes from it all.
“The most important thing is you stay engaged with your kids in other ways, outside of the technology times,” Cathy said.
“This helps on every level.”