4 things to consider in raising your digital native

Your kids are watching what you do more than what you say. Dr Kristy Goodwin explains how healthy media habits begin at home.

We’ve all seen it: tiny fingers miraculously working their way around a smartphone or tablet to locate their favourite apps and games. As parents of digitals natives we have the task of trying to decipher how much is too much and what is helpful or harmful in order to give our children the best start in life.

Here are four things to consider:

1. There’s no avoiding digital technology and media, but from a young age we can help children develop healthy media habits.

Just like food, there are ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ media choices.

2. Children still need to experience boredom instead of looking for digital pacifiers all the time. Technology and interactive media can enhance learning, however inappropriate or excessive use can be detrimental to developing brains.

3. Our brains release dopamine, the feel-good hormone, when we use digital devices. Children’s brains are particularly drawn to screens with their bright colours and sound effects, and it’s very easy for them to quickly become attached to digital devices and crave more and more of them.

4. As parents, we have the opportunity to model how to ‘switch off’ and show our children how to manage media by not letting it manage us. We can do this by letting silence and quiet time be seen as good things, without the need for a gadget to fill the time. In this way we can balance digital interactivity with real-time activities and free time, for a more balanced family life.

Dr Kristy Goodwin is the director of Every Chance to Learn, an honorary associate at the Institute of Early Childhood at Macquarie University and the author of iPads and Young Children: An Essential Guide for Parents, a free e-book available at Every Chance To Learn.

Words by Dr Kristy Goodwin