Growing up digital

Images from

Images from

From Lisa Plenty, Director of Digital Learning and Innovation

In April, the Gonski Institute released the findings from the second phase of a three-phase project, 'Growing Up Digital'. The first phase was released in 2020, with survey data gathered from teachers in 2019. Phase 2, surveying parents and grandparents, was delayed to ensure that findings were not overly distorted due to the impact of remote learning during the height of the pandemic in Australia last year. The third and final phase will soon survey young people about their own habits.
Some interesting, although unsurprising, findings have emerged from the parent and grandparent survey data. Overall, this group is reporting that whilst they believe there is balanced use of technology at school (almost four in five), and that strong digital skills are a necessity, many people are finding the use of technology by children and young people in the home is problematic. 65% of parents report that technology use creates conflict in the home. One of the concerning points is the finding that 30% of the respondents' children are allowed to have their device in their bedroom overnight, and are allowed to use the device after bedtime.
In our Radford context, I have previously shared information about our work with the Cyber Safety Project. This program provides Junior School teachers with a substantive bank of age-appropriate lesson resources on the healthy and safe use of technology. Teachers in all year levels are weaving this content into their Units of Inquiry, and responding to the needs of the children in their care. In addition, we are currently implementing the Cyber Safety Project's Inquiry Project in our Year 7 Wicked Problems course. For this term-long unit, Years 7 and 8 students completed a 'Digital Habits Survey', which gathered anonymous data on students' screen time, social media use, gaming, digital security, experience of cyberbullying and more.

The results of this survey have been shared with Year 7 students who are now working through the design of solutions, responding to problems they are able to identify in this localised data. In addition, our Heads of Year are also reviewing the data to consider areas of learning need and how best to support students in their healthy digital habits.
A notable result in our own data, where the Gonski data indicated 30% of respondents' children accessed devices overnight: our results indicate 42% (115 out of 275 respondents) of our Years 7 and 8 respondents have their devices in their room overnight. 

Devices in bedrooms - Gonski finding

  Radford survey - 42% devices in bedrooms

Image left: Source: Growing Up Digital Phase 2 Infographic image right: Source: Digital Habits Survey infographic Radford College 

Other findings of the Gonski report relate to parents' self-reporting of their own device usage, and the modelling this may provide in their home. There are numerous factors around this: work schedules that for many parents have blurred the boundary between home and work; the need to keep up with technology for greater awareness (as indicated in the infographic); that many people now access news, books and more in a digital format; and connecting with family and friends. These good reasons aside, however, it can be helpful to consider our adult use of devices and the messages this may send to our children. For instance, I know I can get caught up in social media, and have set my own screen time limitation for this category at 20 minutes per day. Even for us as adults, some use of tools for supporting self-regulation can be beneficial.

Supporting students in developing their digital self-regulation is an area where teachers and College leaders at Radford strive to work in partnership with parents and caregivers. The desire for partnership is also indicated in the Gonski report, where 54% of parents want to equally share the responsibility in helping young people develop the digital skills and healthy habits they need in balance with their school. Certainly receiving consistent messages can help to reinforce these healthy habits.

There's no denying that maintaining balance is a challenge. Some of the recommendations we make through parent information sessions and our resources include the following:

·         Have regular conversations with your child about healthy device use. 

·         Adjust the language around device ownership - parent owner, child is allowed to use the device with agreed expectations

·         Encourage creative device use (eg. coding, artwork, video or music production) rather than viewing and gaming and maintain a balance of screen free time

·         Learn to use apps your child loves with them - shared screen time allows for conversation and insight

·         Set agreed screen time limits and implement downtime expectations. If these are set on the device or through your home network, it can avoid the potential for argument when the set limitations are reached.

·         Model use of the same screen time tools to show young people that digital distraction can also be a challenge for adults. 

·         Position device charging and usage in common/open areas of your home, not bedrooms

·         Stay connected to resources shared through the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. There are also resources for parents available for a cost through the Cyber Safety project. See this link for more.

I encourage you to review the Gonski Phase 2 Growing Up Digital report, available at this link. There is also an infographic here of the key findings, helpful for quick insights as well. We will share further insights into our local survey data and look forward to sharing examples of our Year 7 students' responses in a future Bulletin.

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