ISSP’s Ultimate Guide to Parenting in a Digital Age

Education - Saigon/HCMC: Oct. 1, 2019

Focusing on quality over quantity is key.

Make sure the time they spend online is time well spent!

ISSP and parents can work together to help kids navigate the challenges of the future.

It’s an incredible time to be alive. Information, games, entertainment, and real-time communication with friends and loved ones are all just a few taps and swipes away at any moment. Now, think back to when you were just starting school. Can you imagine growing up with this technology? How dramatically different would your own childhood have been? 

As parents, we face some tremendous new challenges and incredible new opportunities as we raise up the first generation in a new “Digital Age.” Like every generation, parents must contend with new trends, new social challenges, and new technological advances that we never could have dreamed of 30, 20, or even 10 years ago.

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Perhaps no generation faces a bigger gap than the current generation of parents, who are the last to have grown up without “smart” devices, and the current generation of children, who are the first to have no concept of what it was like to live before iPads, the internet, and social media. The profound impact technology has on our lives is not yet fully understood even by child development experts, as we have never before witnessed such a dramatic global cultural shift that impacts children at such an early age. 

International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) has dedicated tremendous time and resources to investigate this critical issue and help bridge this generational divide. They continue to find new ways to integrate technology into the classroom in a way that actually helps kids learn—not just for the sake of using technology. Yet the challenges of raising and educating children in a world where they can access anything they want, at any time, extends beyond school. It’s critical that teachers and parents work hand-in-hand and have a mutual understanding of how best to educate our children in harmony with technology so that they grow up to be confident, capable, competent adults ready to face the uncertain demands of the future.

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For the present, our children are rapidly overtaking us in their use and adaptability to new technology. A staggering one in three internet users worldwide is under the age of 18! And with technology constantly changing and developing at such a breakneck pace, it is simply no longer acceptable for us not to keep up. If schools and families take the challenges of a technology-saturated world seriously, they can be harnessed to enhance, rather than inhibit, our children’s growth and learning.

Screen Time Can Be Quality Time!

“How much screen time is appropriate?” is perhaps one of the most studied and least understood questions about child development today. There isn’t any concrete answer, because of how wildly variable any child’s personality, environment, and capacity to focus will differ. Generally speaking:

- Children from 0-18 months should have no screen time at all.

- Children from age 2-5 should be limited to about 1 hour of screen time per day.

- Children from age 6 and up will have different needs, therefore screen time should be determined on a case-by-case basis by parents.

Young children require more structure as it is more difficult for them to self-manage, and as they get older, parents should determine what they think is best suited to their child’s development. However, most experts agree that it’s best to focus on quality over quantity. In other words, the amount of time spent on a tablet or smartphone isn’t as important as what our children are actually doing during that time. Additionally, it’s best to make sure they’re doing so in a positive, open environment. Children shouldn’t be taking their devices into a private room, behind closed doors and out of view. It’s important for us to make space for our children to make mistakes—but it’s critical that they do so out in the open, so we can help them grow and learn, and so that they can take ownership and be accountable for their actions.

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As for the content, there are tons of amazing educational apps and games available for children to aid their learning process. Many of these apps, used by teachers at ISSP as part of their structured tech-forward academic environment, can also be used at home! While our generation might turn to Google to find information, increasingly kids are turning to YouTube to look up tutorials, unboxing videos, and how-tos. Consider using this as an opportunity to encourage your kids to invest in what they are interested in, and perhaps even get creative and make videos of their own with some of the amazing free video editing apps available to them.

Managing Your Child’s Learning Environment

More important than restricting your child’s screen time is ensuring that their digital and physical environment are conducive to healthy practices, and encourage learning and discovery. Here are some of ISSP’s handy tips for how to best adapt technology combined with environment to suit your child’s needs:

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- Choose shows with positive socialization skills, which can teach empathy, honesty and respect.

- Make time for coding! This can help develop problem solving and critical thinking skills, which turns them into creators, not consumers.

- Keep phones and other devices out of bedrooms at night.

- Use a management system like OurPact to help organize and ensure your children stick to a structured schedule and only use apps you approve.

- Put a password on the App store so that all purchases go through you.

- Install YouTube Kids instead of the standard YouTube app.

- For Apple devices, make sure “Find My iPhone” is on so you can keep track of your child’s location.

Raising Our Children in a Challenging New Era

As the last generation to know what it was like to socialize and live life without social media and smart devices, we have a special responsibility to pass on our knowledge and experience for future generations. By the same token, we have so much to learn from them. Our children will continually adapt more quickly than we do and will often know more than we do. And that’s ok! 

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ISSP believes it is up to parents and teachers to work together to create an open environment where kids can take ownership of their learning, take risks and make mistakes, and with a bit of guidance, grow and learn from them as a result. By giving them the best tools and environment to learn in—and modelling good behavior ourselves—we can combine our knowledge of the past with an understanding of the present to raise a generation of adults who are ready to tackle the challenges of the future.

Image source: ISSP