Parents and educators face a lot of tough choices when it comes to rules on gadget time and social media usage. With so many different opinions out there when it comes to how young people should use tech, how can we navigate through the digital landscape? I’ve noticed that there are usually two types of news articles out there. One type that scares you about changes ahead. And another that actually encourages you to be in control of what’s coming.

Let’s look at a couple of examples and how people have reacted to them.

Is it time to ban children from using smart phones?

“Mounting evidence suggests smartphones cause disrupted sleep, depression and higher rates of attempted suicide. Action is surely required”.

Enough with the moral panic over smartphones. The kids are alright.

“An article in the Atlantic has found some alarming results linking depression and technology. My research with Australian teens paints a different picture

Interesting. The first article has over 4,000 shares. As opposed to the second article that has only 800 shares.

Evidence about how much gadget time children “should” have varies. The general, sensible consensus is that children need a balance of activities. And need to be engaging with age-appropriate safe content and apps.

Many parents don’t allow gadget and screen time at home. And there is evidence that because of this, young people can struggle to keep up with other kids in ICT classes. Tech is here to stay. Being computer literate is essential. It is a key part of school education and future careers. Something to consider when not allowing any screen time at home.

Another recent press release came from Facebook. They’ve launched Facebook Messenger for under 13s in the US. It will have more parental control, and they won’t use the information to create ads – this is what is being said about it…

Facebook Messenger for six-year-olds: need I say why that’s a bad idea?

“Experts agree that excessive screen time is already a health hazard for children. Yet the tech giant wants to target them at an even younger age”.

Facebook launches messenger kids app for kids under 13

Facebook have said ‘There are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child’s information isn’t used for ads. It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases. Messenger Kids is also designed to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA)’.

As a parent myself, I question whether or not to let my six-year-old use a messenger app. Yet isn’t it a good thing that there’s an alternative to other messenger apps out there? Some children under 13 are using WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (when the legal age limit is 13). I’m relieved to see that there are age appropriate alternatives for kids.

There has been a call for the social media giants to create a safer space for children. So again, there are two ways of looking at this situation 1. Facebook are targeting younger children or 2. Facebook have created a safer messenger app for children

It’s key for me to feel in control and up to date with what’s going on. I need to be aware of what my children are up to online for their own safety – and I would tell all parents to do the same. Taking tech away and banning my kids from using it could be a hindrance, as I don’t feel it would set them up with the correct skills.

As an example, my children love Minecraft, when they first asked me if they could play it I researched the options. I found the age-appropriate way for them to play. The solution was that they only play on creative worlds and don’t have access to other players, only to each other.

It’s tough if you feel like a tech dinosaur! Keep up to date on the latest changes in social media and technology by following us on our Facebook page. And download our free media and digital literacy resources to help you feel more empowered.

Written by Ruth Gilbey

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