PARENTING

SCREEN SANITY:
RIDE, PRACTICE, DRIVE

DIRECTOR | FIONA FOXON

JUNE 25TH, 2024
WORDS BY: MICHELLE COLE
IMAGES: HOUSE OF BIMBI

cover.jpg__PID:52015332-47ca-4944-a763-51e7de7f478d

PARENTING

Screen Sanity:
Ride, Practice, Drive

DIRECTOR | FIONA FOXON

JULY 24TH, 2024
WORDS BY: MICHELLE COLE
IMAGES: HOUSE OF BIMBI

A SERIES: PART 2/3

We sit ‘Around The Table’ with Fiona Foxon, as she shares the ‘Ride, Practice, Drive’ analogy which she teaches for navigating the complexities of the online world.

What is Ride, Practice, Drive?

It’s an analogy we can use to understand how to prepare our little ones for the world of smartphones, smart devices and screens.

In the same way that we've spent many years as kids, or when you have kids, putting them in the back seat of a car. Fiona explains, we don’t just place young children into the back seat with no car seat. They initially, start off in a baby seat and eventually progress to the booster, then move up to the front seat and a lot further down the track, they’ll learn to drive. We love this analogy of ‘Ride, Practice, Drive’ as a road map for preparing our little ones for the world of smartphones and smart devices.

You can't, or you shouldn’t, just hand children a phone or device and know how to stay safe with it.

Like with learning to drive, you spend many hours in the passenger seat. In the online world this looks like: using the devices alongside them, testing the apps and trying out the games together.

Children are going to hit the potholes, but you'll be alongside them as they go through this different journey of smartphones and smart devices. Children can’t be given the keys to the car and be expected to drive safely or hurt themselves or other people. In the same way, you wouldn't just hand a smartphone to a nine-year-old and expect them to be able to navigate the internet safely.

Our advice for parents is to sit alongside your child and help prepare them for the world ahead. The reality is you’re going to have to spend many hours with your children, understanding what to do and what not to do, before you handover the keys and hope for the best, which eventually you will have to do at some point!

Any advice for the parent who says “I'm just going to ban my child from using smart devices.”

I believe this is a tricky approach because technology as we know it is not going anywhere. Technology is here to stay and it is still evolving. You may be able to restrict use in your own home, but what about at friend’s houses, or at school, especially once they start in high school when you know many of their peers are being given their first phone.

You can prepare for this by helping them build the healthy habits and practices before this point in an age-appropriate way. Teaching what we call ‘the healthy digital muscles’ which they need to grow alongside of you. You’re supporting them to be healthy digital users for the long term because in the same way you probably wouldn't expect your kid to be able to completely resist a bag of lollies or chips. You know that if you completely ban it, you can’t guarantee that they’re never going to eat it! With total banning may come resistance – for example eating the whole bag of chips in secret!

To help navigate this, you can support them to understand the healthy balance, based on your shared family values.

It’s like with healthy eating, you teach them to eat the apple. You support them gradually to start making those smart choices and learning moderation and learning where the boundaries are. Building trust and building the resilience and skills in your child as they're navigating this online world. We suggest you have to work slowly with your child to sort of chip away at good digital behaviours and really build those muscles for healthy long term, good digital practices.

What practical tips do you have for parents with this?

Learn alongside them and do the activities together.

Create open communication and build trust between you and them so they can talk to you if they do hit inevitable road bumps online.

Setting up devices with security settings is essential. You should do this as a family, so they understand why.

Here are some of our reccomended resources to help:

Smartphone ToolkitSocial Media Playbook

In the resources, you talk a bit about making mistakes behind the wheel and what to do when something goes wrong.

Yes, I think it's important as a parent to know what resources you have and who to call when things do go wrong. The eSafety Commissioner’s website has a wealth of information: Parents | eSafety Commissioner. They also have a page specifically for children: Kids | eSafety Commissioner

On the eSafety Commissioner’s website there is a really helpful flow chart of how and who to speak to when things go wrong, these resources are available in different languages. There are also some great videos to watch on eSafety in terms of how to talk with your children about better online behaviour.

Are there any resources on this topic that would be good for readers to have a look at?

The Screen Sanity website has a range of free resources to support the starting points for digital health. We have a Values Toolkit, so print them out, put them on the table and pick out the different values that work for your family.

I think the key takeaway is to remember that a device is like a car. You can make some serious mistakes with it when you get behind the wheel, so you can’t just hand them the keys and say ‘Go. You'll be alright.’ You really have to sit with them, practise and learn. Like with a seat belt.

you've got to set the parameters, and put the parameters in place to help our kids to navigate it safely.

We ask each ‘Around the Table’ contributor to share their top advice for families. What would yours be?

The best thing to do is to start with your child and have regular conversations – learn together.

No matter how old they are, children as young as 5 can be a part of the conversation in using devices safely. You can model it to them and share your mistakes with your children. This is an incredible bridge builder and trust builder, and it shows to your children that you're listening, and their feedback is important to you. You're giving your child such incredible power to be part of the conversation as opposed to a recipient of the conversation or the lecture in most in most cases.

ACCESS YOUR FREE SCREEN SANITY SMARTPHONE TOOLKIT

Smartphone ToolkitScreen Sanity Australia

Looking for more? Join our house to be the first to read part 3 of House of Bimbi's Screen Sanity Series.

(@screensanity_australia) | www.screensanity.org.au


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