Head of House: Kendall

Stay in touch, stay connected, or disconnected?

On my recent long service leave I travelled with my wife through parts of Europe and Singapore. I was stunned by the number of people who are so connected to their phones and other devices. The number of times people nearly walked into us was astounding; heads down, not looking where they are going, and obsession with selfies. This is still a problem in Australia, however we are in a position to do something about it. Here at Loreto Normanhurst we speak of our students as “eyes up girls”.

I remember a motivational speaker who addressed Year 11 and said, “The mobile phone in your hand is amazing. It can connect you with 6 billion people throughout the world, but disconnect you from the person sitting next to you.” The day I heard this I saw four boys at a bus stop, they all had their heads in their phones and no one was conversing with the other sitting right next to them. It was a powerful image that still disturbs me.

Loreto Normanhurst adopts a  limited phone policy when the Year 9 girls head to Far North Queensland. The girls are not allowed to have sim cards in their phone so they can’t talk and text and they have no access to wifi, but they can take photos. They go for a period of two weeks of “Digital Detox” which allows them to be more present and in the moment. On reflection the girls will often say that although they were reluctant at first, they actually really enjoyed the freedom associated with not being connected to their phone 24/7.

Jamie Lee Curtis has just released a children’s book “Me Myselfie and I.” It’s a story about a Mum who received a smartphone for her 40th birthday and became obsessed with taking selfies which led to the detriment of her family life and embarrassment of her children. The mum became engulfed into a different world that kept her disconnected from those around her. It is a cautionary tale that Jamie Lee was driven to write after witnessing the changing nature of the selfie photo.

My wife is a pre-school teacher. She has parents who drop their children to pre-school with other younger children in prams. The parents will often give the youngest child in the pram their phone just to keep them quiet. How young is too young and how much screen time should children have? The Queensland government has published screen time guidelines that assist parents with how long they should allow their children to access screen time. They recommend for 5  to 18 years, no more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time including watching TV or looking at a computer or phone. The Queensland Government claims that too much screen time can affect children’s health including, physical, social, psychological and cognitive development.  The Year 8 Team and the Pastoral Team also addressed the issue of screen time and “Digital Health” with Year 8 a few weeks ago.

Earlier this term the staff were addressed by Dr Danielle Einstein who has written a book called “The Dip, a practical guide to take control of screen addiction and reconnect your family”. In her book Danielle is concerned that children who have unlimited screen use are likely to avoid building their “in person” social skills and display a reduction in basic manners, and this can lead to greater anxiety. This is a simple and quick read that may assist in helping to set boundaries.

I know that at our house we have a no phone rule at the dinner table and as a family we try to have dinner together as much as possible. This is the time that we learn all about what’s going on in the lives of our teenage sons. I know I am not the perfect parent, however I do believe that it is important that we stay connected to our kids as much as we can for as long as we can.

So perhaps we need to stay connected by disconnecting once in a while.

 

Mr Julian Moran

Head of Kendall House