Technology harming family life? Blame the parents July 15, 2013Posted by christinefjohnston in Role of the family.
Tags: parenting, technology and education
(This opinion piece was first published on the 9th July, 2013 in the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times)
I was out with my children last week and couldn’t help but smile as the voice of a toddler on a swing called out, “Higher, higher.”
Normally a scene like this would conjure up images of a mother and child laughing and bonding together, but as we live in the internet age it wasn’t so idealistic.
As it turned out, mum was so engrossed with an online conversation on her mobile that she didn’t even notice her young son calling out for attention. Needless to say, he never did get that higher push, and he ended up playing on the slide, where he didn’t need his mum to have fun.
Electronic devices are making our lives richer, more accessible and more exciting, but are we now spending more time with technology than we are with our loved ones?
Once upon a time the biggest technological nuisance for the family was the phone ringing during dinner time. It is now common to see our loved ones hunched over their phones or tablets as they take one distracted bite of their food after another.Once the plates are cleared the family might move to the living room for some television, but while the family may have once watched the program together, the new normal is to envelop yourself in a technological cocoon for the night. Each person may catch the occasional glimpse of the show, but their attention is now being split between chatting with friends on the phone, watching YouTube clips and answering work emails.
Our fixation with technology has created new routines that are very different from traditional notions of family time.
The increasing ways we are using technology in isolation from one another is reflected by the latest figures from Britain’s communications regulator, Ofcom. A recent study found that for the first time children aged between 12 and 15 are spending as much time online as they are watching television, about 17 hours a week for each.
Many of these children are now not even bothering to sit in the lounge room with the family when they are online, with 20 per cent of five-year-olds now more likely to be alone in their bedroom when online.
Even special family occasions are now infiltrated by mobile technologies. If you are like me, you are undoubtedly irritated with your family members who spend more time watching sport on their mobiles than they do celebrating Grandma’s 80th birthday party.
It would be easy to blame Generation Y’s overuse of technology for the decline of family communication, but should children really get all the blame?
Parents are the ones who ultimately make the decisions concerning the use of technology at home, and these crucial rules have important implications for the family dynamic.
The home is where children learn their values, specifically what is important in family life. Building a warm and cohesive connections are crucial not only for our own family, but for society as a whole.
I would argue parents must first think about their own use of technology. The internet has irrevocably blurred the boundaries between work and home, meaning many parents are still working in one form or another when they are at home with their family. What message does a child receive when he or she is telling a story about something important that happened at school and mum stops listening to reply to an urgent message from the office?
It doesn’t take long for children to understand that technology takes first place at home, and their needs come second. The behaviour we model is ultimately what we get back in return.
Many parents think technology can make parenting easier, and use technological devices to keep children occupied when they might otherwise become distracted or loud. But we must understand that the child will interpret this as meaning they should use technology to be quiet and disconnected from family activities happening around them.
Children learn by watching us. If we want them to feel connected with the world around them rather than the cyber-world, they need to see us enjoying activities grounded in the real world.
If we want our kids to ignore the lure of answering their friends’ endless online messages as the family sits down for dinner, we have to show them what it looks like to turn our own phones off.
If we want them to grow into adults who value family and meaningful bonds with each other, we need to make time to give them our undivided, technology-free attention. Technology is now an integral part of our lives, for good or for ill, and as parents we need to show our children exactly what it is to move offline to enjoy and value our family life.
Tags: education and training, exemplary teachers, teacher education
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the NSW Council of Deans of Education and listen to Minister Piccoli espouse the NSW Government’s views on prospective teachers. He spoke about the quality of entrants into teaching: their literacy and numeracy levels and their suitability to be teachers. The points he put are part of the Government’s 2012 blueprint Great Teaching, Inspired Learning (GTIL). In this post, I’d like to consider what is meant by ‘suitability’ and question if this can be assessed.
The Minister spoke about ‘suitability’ for teaching. In Greater Teaching, Inspired Learning this is stated as ‘entrants into teacher education will … show an aptitude for teaching’ (GTIL, 2012, p.7). He explained that NSW would develop ‘a framework of attributes for assessing suitability for teaching’. The development of the framework will involve the initial teaching education providers, school authorities and teachers. But how do you judge a person as suitable for teaching? Is it based on a psychological evaluation? Will everyone need to take a Myers- Briggs assessment of personality types and be a certain type to be considered for a teaching job? It didn’t work for the Peace Corps, in the US. Will there need to be a recommendation from a principal? Or other educator?
In the project Teaching and Leading for Quality Australian Schools: A Review and Synthesis of Research-based Knowledge, Zammit et al (2007) found that quality teaching could be considered as being influenced by three domains: contextual factors, professional practice, and attributes and qualities of teachers. In the domain of attributes and qualities of teachers, we categorised these as personal, relational and professional. In the personal area, the qualities were: enthusiasm, passion and commitment; high levels of communication; and, motivation to enter teaching. However, these were identified as not the only attributes that contributed to student outcomes and quality teaching. But these seem to be the ones implied in the Minister’s speech.
How do you measure a person’s interest, desire or passion for being a teacher? I remember in high school completing a test to determine which profession / job I would be ‘suitable’ for to help me make decisions about my career. The result was I could do anything. Not so helpful.
We are not born teachers. Teaching is not ‘in the blood’. It is not a genetic predisposition – at least I don’t think it is. But you have to want to work with children; to put in the hours outside of school (the hidden requirements of the job). There are so many different and very good teachers, with a range of personalities, skills and backgrounds who have come into teaching from high school, from another course or from another career. The merchant banker has not changed her/her career to teaching for the money.
The framework for suitability is still to be developed. The form it will take is still to be decided. Let’s hope it isn’t a multiple choice, personality assessment… Watch this space.
NSW Department of Education and Communities, NSW Institute of Teaching, & Board of Studies (NSW) (2012) Great Teaching, Inspired Learning: A Blueprint for Action. Sydney: NSW Department of Education and Communities.
Zammit, K., Sinclair, C., Cole, B., Singh, M., Costley, D., Brown A’Court, L., & Rushton, K. (2007). Teaching and Leading for Quality Australian Schools: A Review and Synthesis of Research-based Knowledge. Canberra: Teaching Australia.