Well-being for Digital Kids

"Young people may appear to have the technical skills to negotiate the Internet but increasingly, it is becoming clear that they do not have the social skills because information technology may be having a deep impact on their cognitive and social development." 

(Children's Commissioner for England, 2015)

So how can parents ensure the well-being of their digital kids?

When parent and child read together that's much better than a child staying in their room with an iPad or tablet.Technology itself is not bad it can help children explore and connect to make the world a smaller place. There are many ways children can use it to educate themselves find and talk with their friends.

Supporting children's emotional development, is very important. Otherwise they may go on to develop behavioural difficulties and be more likely to develop significant mental health problems in the future. Their emotional well-being includes being happy and confident and not anxious or depressed. Oh well socially well adjusted child has good relationships with others and does not have behavioural problems, they are not disruptive, violent or demonstrate bullying behaviour. 

It's normal for child to demonstrate how their feelings through their behaviour. However if they start to excessively repeat ways to demonstrate how they feel, they could be struggling with their emotional health. Other signs may include an ongoing excessively short attention span. They may demonstrate aggressive or withdrawn behaviour towards adults and other children. They may struggle to integrate within their peer group and seem angry or frustrated. Adults can support children by naming emotions and helping the child to realise that what they are feeling is valid and recognisable and understood and then that there are what ways to manage these feelings. For example you could say I can see you're getting very frustrated shall we look at that together? By repeating this pattern the children can learn to do it for themselves..

Parents do worry that children become so used to instant information and fast paced activity that they may lose the ability to concentrate and recall information. Perhaps though if a child gets to a point where they're using technologies so much that it seriously skews their development this would indicate an underlying problem with that child or within its family that's going to manifest itself somehow in any case.

In older children, extended use of the Internet in a virtual world of multi-identity chat rooms or multi-party games have been linked to increased loneliness and depression and the possible blurring of a child's ability to distinguish the real world from the virtual one. If children assume multiple identities and interact with strangers the distinction between real life and simulation may not always be clear. And in some chat rooms there is no way to know if you are interacting with a real person or fabricated character. As younger children as well as older children begin to participate more frequently in these environments, it becomes important to understand whether or not these experiences have an impact on children's psychological development.Teenagers on the other hand feel that digital media can result in positive benefits, such as building a sense of belonging, keeping in touch with groups of friends that share similar values and provide comfort and support to their peers.
Teenagers rate the social benefits of the Internet over everything else that it offers. Online networks can player important part in honing their social and communications skills. They perceive that digital technology is beneficial to their relationships.

We know that emotional well-being is the foundation for healthy behaviour and educational attainment and helps prevent behavioural problems and mental health problems later in life. That's why it's important for parents and teachers to focus on the social and emotional well-being of their children all the way through their childhood. Technology can play a role in helping children develop socially and emotionally, when used in balance.

It is easier now to get involved in social causes for example saving endangered species or raising money from the homeless. Games can offer ways for children to collaborate, take turns and learn basic principles of teamwork. They can increase logical thinking, develop motor skills and hand eye coordination. There is also technology available is that's designed to enhance social and emotional learning, which we know is critical to the development and future success of children. We know that it will it this improves their academic performance, relationships with family and friends emotional intelligence and empathy and supports them to make wise choices in their lives. Technologies used for parents and grandparents to interact and communicate with their children. It can be challenging for the older generation with a steep learning curve but in order to enter into the world where our children spend more time we have to learn to navigate that world with them so that we can better guide them on how to manage it themselves and their time within it.

It is also argued that it's important to establish tech free zones in order to manage technology well for children. This means recognising times when the present moment is the priority and technologies given a secondary role. Children need to learn that there are times when paying attention is the primary importance no matter what type of urgent messages might be coming their way.

Don't use technology as an emotional pacifier. Although it can be very effective in keeping kids, and quiet, it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children do need to learn how to handle strong emotions, and come down through breathing. Or or talk about other ways to solve the problem and find different strategies for channelling emotions. They also need to invent activities to manage their own boredom.

As they grow they become able to independently problem solve, manage their emotions, be resilient and attentive. Young children's emotional well-being is linked to their ability to interact positively with others, manage their frustrations or emotions without excess distress.

Although digital media is an integral part of our world today and the benefits can be great research has shown that face-to-face time with family and friends is even more important in promoting children's learning and healthy development. Parents need to keep up good levels of face-to-face contact and not let it get lost behind a stream of media and technology.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews Children's Author

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