Here is a table to clock in personal digital media use when children are around. Or not.
Prioritize (but really!)
Make a list of the things you need/want/must do. Review and modify weekly/monthly. Research shows that writing down tasks helps you achieve them. Keep the list/table flexible depending on your work schedule, life circumstances, personal interests. Plan your use to avoid bad habits (of rampant and chaotic use). An analogy can be made with food. Replace ‘phone’ with ‘food’. In short, keep the main courses nutritional; the snacking – minimal. Plan.
Prioritize your digital media engagements outside work. Make your own list. The above is just an example. Family dynamics have changed tremendously over the past few decades. Parental mediation varies just as widely from one family to another. Nevertheless, even if you stick to some of your list will help you unclutter your digital media lives or at least give you some clarity. This way you could also set an example to your children as in ‘ok, we’ve got so much going on; interested in this and that; subscribed to so many things. Let’s organize what we’ll do, when and for how long’. You can even make this list together with your child/ren. Some families actually work out ‘media contracts‘. However, having a conversation where both parents and children learn, explore and decide together what works and what does not for them may be a better, more flexible and organic way of getting on, getting along and building strong relations with one another.
Use technologies to create strong relationships with your child/ren regarding technologies. Introduce technologies as tools, not as rewards. From my latest research it became evident that many parents of 7 to 10-year-olds often resorted to control behaviour through the digital devices. To take away the tablet because a child did not do his homework or reward him with 30 minutes of playing a video game for reading a book will backfire and diminish intrinsic motivation for what really matters (the rewarded activity). Technologies are simply tools. Besides, they can aid learning – self-organized and intrinsically motivated one at that.
Listen to podcasts – on the bedroom floor covered with pillows, in the car, anywhere. Some good ones for children include What If, But Why, The Past & the Curious. Or try and make your own. Research shows that parents’ attitudes, traits and behaviours play a significant role in their children’s creative ability, specifically when mothers encourage children to experience novelty, non-conformism and fantasy. Using the audio memo on your phone is a great start to foster your child/ren’s fantasy and creativity and socialization and fun and…
Make audio stories with your child/ren using audio memo on your phone.
Here is one my 8-year-old son and I made. It’s called “The Scotsman and the Lion” about a pirate who, to some, he may seem silly enough, unable to grab fortune even when fortune is granted to him. But the story is actually about personal choice and free will and not about societal expectations.
My son and I came up with the story together. He read it and recorded it by himself. It took us roughly 16 minutes to do a 2-minute story. He had to re-read it 3 times due to unexpected sound effects from my other two children. As we wrapped up the recording, we started to talk about this blog and how people run their own online communication channels to express and share thoughts and ideas with others. He is now looking forward to seeing and hearing his story here, wondering if others would respond to it in any way.
Make things together with your child/ren. This mostly concerns parents whose children are around the ages of 6/7 to 10/12. I will address important issues and research concerning older children and teens and will propose various ideas and literature concerning older age groups in separate posts.
I suggested a few ideas in my previous post. And besides podcasts, mentioned above, here is another idea, which I’m trying to introduce to replace ICT lessons in primary schools in Malta. Pick a serious subject, from the (incomplete, sample) list below, or from your own, made with your child/ren about things they are curious or care about:
Astronomy and so on
See what apps you have on your phone/tablet or use your computer. Use Book Creator (full version $4.99; options to make comic strips, storyboards, books and more) or plain camera, or audio memo or any other app that lets you make audio-, visual or text-based stories. You could also try Telestory (free), iMovie (free), Make Beliefs Comics + ($1.99). Some apps are free to download and use. Some are not. One way or another, any form of learning requires some kind of investment.
Let your child/ren choose their subject and identify a specific topic within that larger subject. Say, they choose environment. Within that subject fall tons of others – say, microplastics killing fish. Limit the project time to 40 minutes for three non- or consecutive days, as your schedule permits. That is, your child/ren must make a story, an object, a game, or any sort of narrative within that timeframe – 3 days x 40/45 minutes for each day. Share and demonstrate the finished project. You can do so here or among friends or relatives.
Talk about the project with your child/ren or see if they will talk about it with others. Find out how your child/ren felt about researching on the project; on building it; what felt frustrating; what was the most encouraging bit; what they liked or disliked. Plan to make more or move on to other things.
Take a break
Make room to rest and do nothing. Leave your devices out of sight. Even silent, physically present technologies can affect our attention. Really, make room for doing nothing every now and again. Your child/ren, too, must learn to feel ok with unstructured time, time for reflection and a little boredom.