One of the common issues around ICT use reported by families is overuse by students at home. When students receive a device for the first time some level of excessive use is expected and normal. This initial period of fascination normally lasts a couple of weeks to a month and then for most students usage patterns return to something more reasonable. For many students though this period of seeming to be glued to a device doesn’t end and this can cause families considerable stress as well as not being healthy for the students overusing.
There are three approaches we would suggest families employ to get usage back to an acceptable pattern:
Everybody understand how a device is used at home Public not private devices Particularly for younger students it is really important that screens are regarded as public screens. That is they are never used in private places. Not in bedrooms or anywhere out of sight. Dining tables for homework that has to be done online are great or the lounge room for reading. As students get older you can reduce the amount of intrusion, devices allowed in the bedroom but the door must be open for example. Devices up! Agree on a place for all connected devices to live at night. It might be on a shelf near a power point so charging can happen too but devices should not accompany children to bedrooms at night. The temptation to just see what’s happening on Facebook/Instagram/YouTube/Tumblr/Kik/Snapchat etc is just too great! The time for devices up should be no less than 90 minutes before bed. Brain research clearly shows that bright screens cause the secretion of serotonin, a wakefulness hormone in your brain. Literally looking at a screen can keep you awake at night long after.you’ve stopped
Taking control of devices Technical restrictions Most routers (the box with all the lights that connect you to the internet) have a capacity for MAC address filtering and control. Every single connected device has a unique MAC address like 8C-70-5A-3D-C6-74. Most good routers can be set to deny and allow connection based on the MAC address of a device and can control the hours that access is allowed between. This isn’t hard to setup, a quick Google search if you know the model of your router should return instructions with pictures. Screen times as currency Use access to your home network as a currency to trade for time doing activities that offset screen use (preferably that involve physical activity or are outdoors). Why not use this to the advantage of your whole family to encourage some housework help?
Redirection That initial period where students are becoming accustomed to what are reasonable limits on the device use are really critical. What’s established here will determine what happens down the road when students are older and perhaps less receptive to simply following directions, so be prepared to invest some time and effort Modelling It’s not surprising how unreceptive children can be to ICT use restrictions if they see you as a parent doing exactly what you are restricting them from doing. While we can make very valid arguments that the rules are different for adults, in the break in period you may find it much easier if you curtail your own use where you can (phones included). Instead try reading a book with or alongside your child - double benefit you’ll get some quality down time and your child will improve their reading and overall cognitive performance. Getting outdoors This could be a great time to invest in some non passive activities either with or for your child. To coincide with this initial period try and find an activity that your child can do outside of the home. Local council, community groups, churches, sporting clubs and organisations like the CFA run an amazing array of free activities you can look into. Alternatively you may need to develop a sudden and compelling interest in evening walking with your child, maybe take the dog! You’ll need to persist for a couple of months but, you be healthier, so will your child and maybe the dog. These are just a few of the strategies you can employ but these are tested and effective. The Melba College website under Resources/ICT Help has links to many good online resources for you to find out more.