Children and Technology – should we even try to stop it? Part 3
As we have seen in the last two articles, the topic “media and children” is about more than competence. It’s about maturity.
In the first article, we took a closer look at what the word ” literacy” really means. The second article showed how we can support our children on their way into maturity.
In this article we will look at what a practical everyday life might look like under these insights.
Speaker Angela Indermaur took us into everyday life with teenage children. She gave us an insight into the way they can successfully deal with the topic of media.
After we had received a lot of interesting information and explanations about media and children in the first and second part of the lecture, we were eager to hear how such everyday situations could look like.
Angela described her first experiences with the topic with a lot of humor when her eldest daughter got her first mobile phone at the age of 12 and how she as a parent was confronted with the realities of the child’s (im)maturity.
„Mobile numbers were exchanged, games downloaded, WhatsApp ran hot, movies were watched.
We were pretty blue-eyed back then when we pressed a smartphone into the hands of our 12-year-old daughter. We thought she would need one in the summer when she goes to school in town, and we wanted to surprise her with it.
We didn’t yet know that the sensible use of a mobile phone had anything to do with maturity, nor did we know that media literacy was not achieved through practice and the use of media, but rather through broad, practical experience – in other words, experience in the real world.
These are the two things that really matter: personal maturity and media literacy”.
After this first experience, they had learned and were able to apply their experience and deepened understanding to their other two children.
During the lecture, she explained to us how they deal with this topic today.
„Our second child was bitterly disappointed when he learned that we would not hand him a mobile phone when he was 12 years old. But he understood our explanation that we did not want to make the same mistake again in the name of “justice”.
As a compromise, a few months later we had a terrarium with a snake in the house – something that this child had also wished for very much!„
What everyday family life could look like
It is important to define the framework conditions (as early as possible).
Angela explained to us how this can be achieved with a mobile phone contract even before the first mobile phone is here. The following points could be defined:
- Mobile phones, tablets and PCs are in the living room
- In the evening the wireless LAN is switched off after a certain time.
- No photos of yourself will be uploaded, not even as a profile picture, up to the age of 18.
- The parents have access to the mobile phone. The code is entered into the parents’ agenda – after all, they signed the mobile phone contract and their ID was needed.
- For the same reason, apps may only be downloaded with the permission of the parents.
- Mobile phones also need holidays – no mobile phone is taken on holiday. (For photographing there are also photo cameras, for listening to music Ipods or other digital devices for this purpose).
- Under 16 years there are only prepaid subscriptions, under 18 years no flatrate.
- Meals are mobile phone free times.
These points can be individually adjusted according to your needs and preferences. On the Internet you can find various mobile phone contracts that give good ideas for an adapted use. Here or here you will find a few examples of such a contract.
„But what if the child needs a mobile phone at school? More and more classes have a class chat.
Or what if children want to stay in touch with their new friends via Whatsapp after summer camps?
What if a child becomes an outsider because he or she misses important information or because it “doesn’t belong“?
These are important questions that will certainly not leave parents and children cold!
Angela Indermaur suggested the solution of installing Whatsapp on a tablet (located in the living room). So the child does not miss any important messages and still does not need its own mobile phone with internet access.
„Different ways lead to the goal. Sometimes you have to find an individual way”
emphasizes Angela Indermaur.
The book “Heute mal Bildschirmfrei” (Screenless for a Change) addresses the question whether a child is marginalized and bullied if he or she is not allowed to use his or her mobile phone around the clock – or even more so: If it has none at all.
„For younger children, the state of research is a clear no. In the case of older children, it is important to respond sensitively to individual situations. But: “Anyone who buys a smartphone for fear of exclusion lets their child slide from the rain into the fire“. (p.232)
Because a child who has been excluded and bullied will not “belong and be popular” all of a sudden just because it now has a mobile phone. The chance that a child who has been bullied in reality will later be bullied and marginalized in cyberspace is very high.
A Spanish study on risk and protection factors in cyberbullying examined this and came to the following conclusion: The first cause is that a child has already become a victim of bullying at school (in the real world!).
Then, at first, causes will follow that are linked to the virtual world. In second place is the use of messenger services and in third place risky behaviour on the Internet. (…) Against this background, Spanish scientists identify an important protective factor: stable self-confidence.
Günter Steppich, representative for youth media protection in Hesse, says in addition:
“Children always say to their parents, “Everybody has! (…) Adults repeatedly argue that children would be bullied without a smartphone. Complete nonsense. Mobbing has completely different causes than status symbols (,…) I can rather prevent it by making my child strong and making it clear that one gets no respect for always running after the herd” (p.234).