Media literacy and education technology should start in childhood, with the participation of families and teachers
Today, it can often seem like our children, and especially our teenagers, are using technology and the Internet for a large part of the day. They are quite comfortable with their smartphones, tablets, computers, chromebooks and other connected objects at home, away from home and at school – as a matter of fact, technology is now an integral part of education.
As parents and families, we may not be all tech-savvy and we can quickly feel lost, especially when our children use technological jargon that is sometimes totally foreign to us.
Good or bad use… Who decides on the limits?
In addition, it is difficult to draw the line between normal, healthy use of technology and problematic use, let alone addiction. It has been said a million times and it is true: new technologies are a tremendous source of progress: better communication, time saving, efficiency, openness to the world, creation of social links, places of exchange, almost unlimited source of information, democratic tool of free expression, etc.
But every coin has two sides and technological tools can also become a source of suffering when we go from reasonable to excessive, then from excessive to addiction.
Problematic use happens when technology becomes the main focus of the adolescent, who lives only for it, to the detriment of everything else.
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Loss of control
It is important to understand that the problem is not the amount of time spent using a device (although it is necessary for a parent to control screen time), but the loss of control. Even if your teenager uses a favorite hobby, such as video games, on a daily basis, when the game does not interfere with other tasks or activities, this is not really a problem. However, if they happen to spend days and nights on the game, it becomes excessive and could lead to a loss of control and addiction, with physical, psychological and social consequences.
To avoid this, education technology should start in childhood, with the participation of families and teachers.
Digital natives also need guidance
As the saying goes, our children and teens are “digital natives”. Well, they were born and raised with technology, that’s a fact. However, it does not necessarily imply that they are more knowledgeable about how best to use technology. Actually, even teenagers who are particularly comfortable with the latest apps or smartphones need guidance of their parents and teachers on how to use these tools parents in a healthy, safe and productive manner.
What if we are not tech-savvy at all?
Not all of us parents are tech-savvy. Not all of us are familiar with the latest trendy apps and for some of us the words TikTok, Reels or Triller mean nothing at all. Yet, beyond technical skills, the family has a key role to play in teaching the proper use of technology from early childhood.
The current medical consensus is that screens should be banned before the age of three. Thereafter, technology should be integrated into an educational approach (control of content, schedules, etc.), avoiding at all costs using the TV or tablet as a virtual nanny.
Media literacy is critical
As children grow up and become teenagers, their good use of technology will depend on adequate media literacy, i.e. the ability to identify the different types of media and to understand the messages they convey – at a time when fake news and conspiracy theories abound, this is an essential skill!
Lastly, adolescents should have an understanding of when to put down the device and engage in face-to-face conversations, and how to protect their privacy, safety and security online. Parents should in particular teach them how to avoid the following risks:
- Cyberbullying: when people use technology to harass, humiliate or embarrass someone,
- Trolling: a troll is someone who deliberately starts arguments and conflicts on the internet, often causing considerable distress,
- Isolation: too much time spent online is time spent away from family and friends and may lead to other behavioral problems,
- Inappropriate contents: it should be noted that this content may portray your child or a friend of your child in an attempt to humiliate them,
- Inappropriate relationships: the internet can be a hunting ground for individuals who aim to form inappropriate relationships with young people.
The prevention of addictions and other risk behaviors starts in the family!