Seven-year-old Oliver has never watched television at home or spent hours on an iPad playing Minecraft. His family live technology-free.
Dad, Lloyd Godson, said it was not something he and his wife planned.
“It is something that happened naturally while we were living in a small village in Greece and had no television. So, when we had kids we just continued living that way,” Lloyd said.
He said they have never set out to ban Oliver from iPads, but have just never turned to one as a quick fix. He believes Oliver’s natural creativity and curiosity has meant they have never needed to resort to screens to occupy his time.
“His curiosity and love for learning has come from having to create things from what he has around him. He does see friends with televisions and iPads but it doesn’t change his perspective. He sees it more as a distraction,” he said.
Listen: On the latest episode of This Glorious Mess, Holly Wainwright and Jay Laga’aia discuss whether a screen detox would fly in their houses. (Post continues…)
The family enjoy spending time together and coming up with their own fun, often sitting around the fire at night playing cards.
Lloyd said Oliver does use computers at school, and added never having used them at home has not hindered his competence.
As a high school teacher of year nine and 10 children, Lloyd sees first-hand the impact screens have.
“It is really quite depressing. The fatigue. The kids are exhausted from having been up until 10 at night. They are half asleep in class and texting on the phone during lessons. I feel really sad by it,” Lloyd said.
He believes a lot of the love of nature is being lost to the virtual world and there is desperate need to bring back a free-range childhood to communities.
Lloyd said the key is for parents to lead by example.
“Kids want parent’s attention, but they have their heads down on the screen. Pull away from the screen and give them your undivided attention.
“I am not perfect at it, but you can see how much calmer the kids are when they don’t have to fight for your attention,” Lloyd explained.
Educational consultant and director of Sprocket and Stone, Rebecca Thompson, said she is seeing an increasing number of preschool children unable to ‘check in’ with their basic needs; not knowing when they are tired, hungry or cold and having difficulty socialising.
She distinguishes between the use of technology to further knowledge and creativity and its use as a screen simply to settle or occupy a child.
“By using screens to settle and keep children occupied they are not able to develop the skill to self-regulate. Children need to have the opposite to be able to calm themselves as opposed to using a screen to calm them,” she said.
However, Rebecca doesn’t recommend taking screens away from children completely, because she said, technology is a part of our lives.
“If we are to use it, it needs to be in conjunction with an adult connection and managed. For example, saying, we are going to use it for this long and for this purpose’,” she advised.
“It’s about adopting a philosophy of connection. ‘Let’s do this together and talk about what it’s for.’ It is not about control, but rather connection and guidance,” she said.
New South Wales mum-of-three, Bec Carey, said her children, Tyger 12, Harper 7 and Lakyn 5, have always lived without iPads and televisions.
“We have a family iPad, but I don’t even know where it is. We also have a television but have weeks where it doesn’t get turned on,” she said.
Bec wants the children to grow up with the freedom and love of the outdoors that she had as a child, which is increasingly being lost in today’s busy and over-protective society.
“My kids rush home from school, unpack their bags and run outside to play. They have water fights, build cubbies and play in the bush. Sometimes they are out until after dark.
"They never experience that boredom because there is always something to do,” Bec said.
She believes technology can take away a child’s imagination and that experiencing boredom helps to foster creativity.
“Technology has a place, but it doesn’t need to be at the forefront of their play."
She said a lot of Tyger’s 12-year-old friends are using social media now, but she hadn’t asked for it yet.
“Social media is a part of today’s connectedness so when she needs it, we will have a discussion,” Bec said.
Bec appreciates that families who have allowed iPads will struggle if they want to change their children’s habits, but the benefits of having more time outside playing will outweigh the struggle along the way.
Rebecca recommended parents look at books Free to Learn by Peter Gray and Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom.
Her website is www.stoneandsprocketec.com
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