February 05, 2020
By Dr Kathy Weston
This week, Ofcom released a report about children’s relationship with digital technology. What did we learn?
The report shows that half of ten-year-olds now own their own smartphone. Smartphone ownership doubles between the ages of 9 and 10, marking a milestone in children’s digital independence, as they prepare for secondary school.
I have to say that I was shocked by the extent of phone ownership at this tender age, but not surprised about when children are being given phones. Smartphone ownership has become “normalised”, considered by many parents to be an important accessory on new solo walks to and from school. The red flag is “smartphone” – a handheld computer rather than a simple talking and listening device!
Trouble is, transition into a new school setting is hard enough. We need children to learn how to connect with their peers through social interaction, without the added pressure of learning to navigate social friendships online – a totally different ball game.
Over the past few months, I have been helping my son to revise for an important scholarship exam.
I feel a renewed sympathy for parents who are worried about their teens’ motivation levels, organisational skills and how they will manage the process psychologically. What did I learn from helping him?
First of all, examiners aren’t that imaginative. When we looked over past papers, it was easy (even in one evening) to spot patterns and similar questions. Don’t be afraid to look through those together. Doing so can actually alleviate anxiety!
Secondly, don’t believe anyone who says ‘last minute revision’ is a waste of time. A key word that we learned for the first time, the night before the Latin paper, popped up on the exam.
Thirdly, when you have a partnership approach to helping your child through exams, they may experience less stress. As I told my son, “we will win and we will lose together”.
Many parents have recently been in touch with me asking for appropriate sign-posting to psychological or learning assessment services for their children. Remember, that if you are ever worried at all about your child’s mental health, the first port of call should always be your GP.
When it comes to issues related to learning, listen to what teachers and schools say to you about your child; they are extremely knowledgeable about what might be going on. If they hint that your child may need to be assessed, they are being supportive.
Sometimes parents worry about their child being labelled as a result of an assessment. I would like to allay your fears. Any assessment is about helping to understand how your child sees the world and about understanding how the adults around them can best support them moving forward. If your child ends up being diagnosed with a particular condition, it can actually alleviate parental guilt, worry and stress, and allow you to access a community of other parents going through the same thing.
In the last week, I have referred a host to parents to the following sites:
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