The Pew Research Center is an American organisation that conducts research into many facets of life affecting the average American home. One of the many interesting studies it performs is on the effect of social media use among teenagers. Headlining the report is that “fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% says they are online almost constantly”.
Netsafe, our local Internet advisory agency, shares similar findings in its report entitled “New Zealand teens’ digital profile : a factsheet”. In 2017, “a third of NZ teens spend 4 or more hours online in an average day” and that “teens regard themselves as confident technology users”. Most of the report corelates with our experiences here in the Mission Heights Schools, with students in both schools rating their usage of technology highly in both personal and school aspects of their lives.
What is of interest here is the personal aspect, and which is not often discussed openly enough. Our teachers play an important and active role in helping and advising students in their digital lives and how to stay safe online, especially during learning advisor time. Here, there is a clear focus on digital citizenship and how to behave online in a manner that is consistent with caring for others. There is also this desire for the students to bring these practices back home.
As a result, parents also play an important role in creating this atmosphere at home. The ICT team often receives requests from parents on how to help their children at home, and the most important advice we can give anyone is that communication is a key element in building trust and rapport between parent and child. Establishment of that brings along greater cooperation among all parties alike.
For example, putting a time limit on social media use is very often a cause for strife between parent and child. In fact, the average person spends nearly 2 hours a day using various forms of social media, with teenagers using far more than that. If both parties are made aware of the consequences of spending too much time on social media, and a common goal is formed where social media use is lessened to an agreed duration, the results may be more acceptable than simply removing the device from said child.
Theere is a growing body of knowledge amongst goverment agencies and academia about the way young New Zealanders interact with digital technologies. It is our hope that we learn to embrace the opportunities and be upfront with the challenges and potential risks that these technologies afford.