Mobile phones, computers, social networks and the Internet are part of the everyday life of children and young people, including at school. Concerns about the risks of too much screen time or internet activity for children and young people are tempered by the reality of technology use in education and leisure.
The experience of living during the pandemic, when a lot of learning and communication went online, also changed attitudes towards the use of technology. UK communications regulator Ofcom reported that only a minority of children and young people were offline or had no access to the internet in 2020.
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Teachers are in a unique position to assess how children and young people use technology such as mobile phones and the impact it has on them. You see how children and young people use technology to learn, communicate and how it affects their relationships with their peers.
Together with my colleagues, I carried out an in-depth study with eight teachers from across the UK of different backgrounds, ages, years of experience and type of institution. We asked teachers about their experiences of technology use with children and young people: how they think it has affected their emotions, behavior and learning before and during the pandemic.
Teachers talked about the importance of technology as a tool in the classroom and in learning, and the opportunities it offers for creativity. As one teacher said:
It is something that children are used to and it attracts them more – it is a useful tool that can enrich our lessons.
Endowed with technology
We also found that teachers are optimistic about the role of technology in empowering children and young people. one said:
They use social media to learn from each other and express their beliefs – even kids who are quiet in the classroom find it easier to express themselves online.
They thought that children and young people could learn to understand and recognize the signs of unhealthy technology use based on their own emotions and behavior when using technology. This included showing empathy and concern by noticing what they and others were feeling. One teacher said children and young adults are becoming more empathetic and offering help to friends who are showing signs of distress through their online posts.
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However, some teachers have expressed concern about how online interaction is affecting children and young people’s social skills. The teacher said:
They don’t know how to properly talk to their friends. They don’t know how to solve something because it’s easy to be angry behind the screen and not solve.
Another asked how the use of technology affects the game. said:
They don’t know how to play and you will see groups of them around the phone.
Educators also noted the problems of moving away from the use of technology. The teacher explained:
Parents are constantly trying to pull their children away from screens, and the next day they are exhausted and struggle to get them to school because the children are so tired.
Teachers discussed how they encouraged their students to participate in team sports to encourage personal communication and conflict resolution. However, while online safety and internet use are addressed in school, guidance on living with technology, resilience and balanced use of technology could be clearer.
The PHSE Association – the national body for personal, social, health and economic education – provides guidance on online safety and curriculum skills, e.g.
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Teachers felt that online behavior should be discussed more in the classroom. Daisies Daisies / Shutterstock
In the classroom, this can be as simple as working on how to make informed decisions about technology use – for example, being more careful when online activities involve talking to strangers, or recognizing whether spending time online is important investment. This can include using social media posts as real-world examples to encourage children and young people to be informed, critical and resilient about the content they may see and interact with.
Teachers felt that incorporating internet safety into the curriculum would be beneficial, as would giving children and young people opportunities to talk about their experiences and content with technology. The teacher said:
There are predators and we discuss online safety with my students, but some things should also be part of the curriculum and parents should have access to them as well.
Teachers emphasized that they also needed support with their technical knowledge and suggested that this should be more actively included in teacher training. The teacher said:
We need to keep up with the times, and if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t all keep up…one-time training isn’t enough, schools need to invest in ongoing technology-related professional development.
Children and young people can benefit greatly from technology, but there are also risks. More attention to how teachers can address this in schools could be an invaluable way to help children and young people understand and balance their time online.
Sarah Hodge, Lecturer in Psychology and Cyber Psychology, Bournemouth University
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This article has been republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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