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As we watch our children grow, it can be confronting to see them navigate tech that even we are struggling to master and defend against. While it is exciting to see all the possibilities that the digital world can offer, it is important to remind ourselves that unless technology is enhancing our humanness it should not only take a backseat as Education Futurist Louka Parry explains, “it shouldn’t even be in the car”.

“We should be embracing digital technology only when it is in service of really impactful learning,” explains Louka, who along with working globally to enable a world of thriving learners, is also a member of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation board.

But how can this approach help parents, who are often feeling the weight of parenting guilt?

We know there are so many exciting ways that technology can enhance learning. For instance, supporting people with learning differences, empowering neurodiverse children and those with dyslexia, and enabling deep personalised learning. And there are more untapped positive ways that technology can help to not just enhance learning but also foster children’s overall wellbeing.

Parents should be excited by these possibilities, but Louka is keen to remind us that there is more to thriving as a whole person than just academia. He suggests we consider,

"What do I want for my young person? To be the best learner they can be and to do so joyfully,” highlighting the significance of fulfilment over just academic success.

Tips for helping your child to thrive in a technology-heavy world

Being kind to yourself should always be a priority, explains Louka. “You’re learning to parent as you go and you’re learning alongside your child. To support yourself through that you might need to forgive yourself every single night and then recommit every single morning. It's a very good practice because none of us are getting it completely right.”

You can only do your best, with the tools that you have on hand. Louka has helped to develop some simple yet impactful advice:

1. Only embrace technology that serves us (not the other way around)

When technology isn’t helping you, it is hindering your wellbeing. Louka explains that when it comes to tech, “it should be in service of optimal human growth and wellbeing, and if it's not, that's where it shouldn't be getting used.”

Take time to reflect on how the technology is making you feel, and when you might find yourself distracted. Then support your children to do the same, and make conscious decisions based on what you discover.

2. Cultivate a love of nature (and offline activities)

Louka points to research that shows the positive benefits of time in nature, suggesting a balance between digital engagement and outdoor activities, especially for children spending extended periods on screens.

“We want to support our children to be technological naturalists, meaning they are technologically savvy, but they love nature,” explains Louka. “We want to see them getting outdoors or going for a swim, simply playing in nature, these things are becoming more important in our digitising world.”

3. Model intentional behaviour

Louka advises parents to model intentional technology use.

Set clear boundaries for technology use within the home, such as setting bounded and intentional time for use. Keep devices out of bedrooms and promote face-to-face interactions during moments of connection. Optimal child development and connection is an act of serving and return and technology disrupts this process. However, Louka urges parents not to feel guilty about their own tech use as we live in a digital world, but to be “very cautious about the use of your phone and what you are modelling to your children.”

To support you in building balance in the home, you can explore our DigiTalk Screen Smart Family guide.

4. Create space for safe conversations

One of the most important things parents can do to ensure their children are safe and thriving online is to hold space for them to share, engage in two-way conversations and ask them open-ended questions.

Louka explains that this process is “just really allowing young people to develop discernment”. These open conversations support their critical thinking skills, as well as help to grow trust and communication in a safe home environment.

Louka suggests trying questions that let them think about both the positive and negative sides of technology, such as:

  • “What was the best thing that you created with technology today?”
  • “When did you feel it was like it made you happiest?”
  • “And did anything happen that made you feel a bit yucky?”
  • “Do you feel that like there were any moments today when the device was controlling you?”

Creating a safe space is very important because, as Louka shares, “I think a lot of children suffer in silence... so that safe space where young people can talk about how they really feel or what's really going on, that's such a critical space especially as we learn more about the negative impact of some platforms on mental health and wellbeing”

To learn more about starting and continuing great conversations with the children and young people in your life, explore the resources in our DigiTalk Hub.