Navigating the Rocky Terrain of Technology

By Sydney Stoyan
Parents of boys in Grades 6 through 10 gathered in Ketchum Hall on February 25 to listen to a panel of experts – Lisa Pont, MSW, and our own team of Andrea Kaye, Stefanie Turner and Danielle Rovinski – to talk about “problem technology” and our boys. 
As Steve Beatty noted in his introduction, it’s a crucial topic, and as 2020 parents, we are somewhat lost. 

Technology is an indispensable and omnipresent part of today’s world, so Ms. Pont sketched out the meanings for problematic usage: pre-occupation, withdrawal from friends and family in real life, academic issues, sleep problems. Girls have statistically higher rates, but studies show that almost 20% of students have a troubling relationship with electronic devices. 

The research sounds alarming: 30% of students spend five hours daily on screens – excluding homework and television; 20% spend five hours or more a day just on social media. Kids with ADHD, ASD, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem – and those of above average intelligence – are especially at risk for technology “addiction.” 

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends no more than two hours of daily screen time for our kids, but this might not always be manageable in a world of laptop homework: we need to consider the context rather than the number of hours on screens. Ms. Kaye also reassured us that the vast majority of our boys do not have an addiction. 

So, what can we do as parents to create safe parameters for our children’s relationship with technology? We can create tech-free times (meals, drives to school). Model good tech behaviour (put down our phones!). Educate ourselves (play their video game with them, query how TikTok works). Ask our boys for their thoughts on regulating usage. And speak to them with respect and without judgement: technology is their world.

Overwhelmingly, the advice (from the RSGC panel, from cited studies) was clear: no technology in the bedroom. No phones. No laptops. Ms. Turner has engaged her Grade 8s in detailed conversation about technology and the boys acknowledged this made their usage easier to govern. As parents, we also need to check our biases (and not talk about the good old days when all we did was play outside…)

We also need to change our questions. The modern version of “what did you do in school today?” might sound like “what did you see online today?”