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How to reduce technology costs for kids

Every parent knows the days of buying a bag of books and stationery before the new school year are well and truly over. Today, parents are expected to purchase cutting edge technology, such as the latest iPads and devices, which obviously places a real strain on a family’s back pocket.

Our latest blog explores this trend.

Why tech matters

Most parents understand the importance of helping their children stay up to date with changes in technology. Knowing how to communicate digitally is arguably just as important today as understanding math and spelling. It’s a vital part of most modern employment, and as such, a vital facet of any good education program.

But what about the cost to household budgets?

WA mum of 2 Lisa Sanders shared her views on the issue.

“It’s certainly something we struggle with every year, as it feels like if we don’t keep up, our kids will be left behind,” she said.
“In saying that, we do make sure we don’t overdo the tech purchases, as it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the kids need every new gadget that comes out.”

Lisa speaks with other parents and friends who work in tech industries, such as IT, to gain a better understanding of what her kids really need.

“I’m good at knowing what I don’t know, so I like to ask my friends in IT whether ‘that new iPad’ is really necessary,” she said.

“Often the newer version doesn’t have that many updates, so the kids can get away with using last years for longer than they probably like.”

The BOD Revolution

A trend hitting schools in Australia is BOD, or ‘Bring your own device’. This works well for families such as Lisa’s, as they can discern whether their children should upgrade, or just stick with the device they are currently using.

Other schools allow children to rent laptops and other devices, which ensures every child has the same tech every year. This is certainly a good approach, as although BOD has its merits, it arguably puts families with a lower disposable income at a disadvantage.

What can I do to reduce technology costs for kids?

As a parent, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure your child has the best possible tech education, without breaking the bank.

  • Talk to your child’s school to find out their policy on technology. Does the school ask children to BOD or rent a device? Weigh up what works best for you and your family.
  • If your child does have to bring their own device to school, consider purchasing a brand that is unlikely to go out of date fast, such as an Apple product.
  • Talk to people in tech industries to see whether new versions of the same device contain big changes in technology. Chances are your child can continue using the same device for many years, without impacting their learning.
  • If you don’t have any tech contacts, head to online forums such as Whirlpool Technology, which features a large community of knowledgeable contributors who respond fairly efficiently. Our Facebook page is another community where tech questions can be asked.

Want to know more?

For more info on kids and technology, Like our Facebook page or subscribe to our blog. We post regular articles about how to keep children and young people safe on social media, as well as insights into balancing play and screen time and other important issues facing our children today.

You may also like to check out eebudee, a safe social media toolbox that teaches kids, parents and close friends and family how to use social media. The website helps kids adopt healthy attitudes to social media, and helps them understand how to handle cyber bullying and other tricky situations.

Our website is in beta phase right now, so we’d love your feedback!

Young man playing computer game back of the head view

Online gaming may boost performance at school

RMIT University completed a recent study, which found that gaming improves results in science, mathematics and reading. The Australian study discovered that children who engage in online gaming are likely to achieve 17 points (approximately 4%) higher in a math test.

Here’s what else they found.

The study

  • Researchers analysed the online habits of 12,000 Australian teenagers, aged 15 years.
  • Data relating to online habits was taken from PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment.
  • It was then compared with the teenagers’ academic results.
  • Researchers found online gaming assisted with developing problem solving and analytical skills in young people.

Why gaming improves outcomes at school

Associate Professor Alberto Posso from RMIT was reported as saying to ABC.net.au that when online gaming, children have to understand at least some principles of chemistry, which means they need to comprehend science too.

Posso also told ABC.net.au that, according to some psychologists, large online games can benefit cognitive development.

What about social media?

The same researchers also looked at whether social media consumption impacted academic results. They found that using Facebook or other social media applications had the opposite effect.

That is, excess use of social media hindered academic success.

Why does social media reduce academic success?

The same researchers also examined whether social media consumption impacted academic results. They found that using Facebook and other social media applications had the opposite effect.

The negative effects of social media were mostly felt when teens spent hours scrolling through Facebook and similar social media applications. Researchers found that children who accessed social media every day scored 20 points less in math, than kids who didn’t use social media at all.

Posso told ABC.net.au that this was because kids are not really solving problems when they use Facebook. There is also the ‘opportunity cost’ of spending too much time on an activity that is not likely to improve academic performance.

For the full study, head to the International Journal of Communication.

What does this mean for my child?

These results may be scary to parents who have children that spend many hours on social media. But really, the correlation between reduced academic performance and social media use appears only to arise when social media use is excessive.

You may like to read some of our tips on monitoring children online, to ensure they do not tip the scale into excessive social media consumption.

In terms of gaming, we can now see that it is not the ‘waste of time’ many parents believe it to be. In moderation, it can indeed improve academic outcomes for teenagers. This is certainly encouraging.

For more fresh facts relating to safe gaming and social media habits, please Like our Facebook page – Safe Social Media for Kids. If you have an issue you’d like us to address in a blog post leave a comment below.

 

 

Teenagers working on laptop in school campus

How social media affects teenage brains

The UCLA brain mapping centre conducted a study on teenage brains and their response to social media. Researchers discovered that when teens received ‘Likes’ on a picture they posted, the reward centre of the brain is activated.

They discovered some other interesting facts too.

The study

  • Scientists used an fMRI scanner to take an image of the brains of 32 teens.
  • The scan was taken while the teenagers were using a social media application that resembled Instagram.
  • As the teens used the app, the scientists noticed that specific areas of the brain were activated when the teens received ‘Likes’ on pictures they posted.
  • The reward centre of the brain was the most active region.
  • Likes were actually assigned by the UCLA research team, although the teens thought their peers were responsible for them.
  • When a teenager saw a high volume of ‘Likes’ on their own photo, the nucleus accumbens, a section of the brain responsible for reward circuitry, was noticeably active.

What does this mean?

Researchers believe that since reward centres of the teenage brain are activated when using social media, they are likely to want to keep using it more.

UCLA lead author Lauren Sherman was reported as saying to CNN that reward circuitry is thought to be particularly sensitive in adolescence. This, in turn, may explain why teenagers use social media so avidly.

The impact of peer influence

The experiment also had implications relating to how teens react to their peers Liking a post on a social media app. Participants were shown a number of ‘neutral’ images, including things like friends and food, as well as ‘riskier’ images containing alcohol and cigarettes.

Researchers found that the kind of image did not affect the quantity of ‘Likes’. Instead, teens were more likely to ‘Like’ a picture that was popular with their peers, no matter what the image was of.

This has obvious positive and negative implications for teenagers, who are likely to feel good when multiple Likes are received, and bad when they do not receive a high volume of Likes.

What does this mean about the brain?

Scientists do speculate that social media is impacting our brains, especially plasticity, which relates to the way the brain changes and grows after it has different experiences.

When the brain learns something new, that experience is encoded in it. This happens because neuron connections strengthen and change.

For example, a study found that white matter in the adult brain altered as a person learned to juggle over a few months. Brain scans before and after showed distinct changes in the structure of the brain. (Head here to read the fully study.)

It also follows that time on social media could make the brain grow and change. Dr Iroise Dumontheil from Birkbeck University was reported as saying to CNN that these new social media skills are neither a good or bad thing, just a way of adapting to our environment.

Find out more

For more insights into how children and young people use social media, please Like our Safe Social Media for Kids Facebook page. We also post regular blogs on our website, so check back weekly for new articles!

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Tinder, MeowChat and the Risks for Children

Most social media networks do not allow children below a certain age to sign up.

Age restrictions exist for a reason, and in most cases, they are designed to protect a child from information or material that may be harmful to them.

Unfortunately, age conditions cannot easily be enforced by Facebook and other social media networks, as they have no way of knowing if a new user is above or below the cut off age.

This creates a distinct challenge for parents.

What can parents do?

Luckily, there are actions you can take to ensure your child is not using a social media network that is inappropriate for them. If your child has a mobile phone, check the home screen to see whether they have uploaded any new social media apps.

For example, if your child has a Facebook icon on the home screen of their phone (this looks like a big blue and white ‘F’), you know they have downloaded Facebook and are probably using it. If your child is under 13 years old, then they are using Facebook prematurely.

We’ve taken a moment to highlight 2 high-risk social media applications you need to be aware of.

Tinder

How it works: Tinder is one of the most popular dating applications in the world. It’s used by adults to connect with other single adults in their area. Each user has a profile, which includes photos of that person, plus a brief description, if they choose to include one. If a person sees another person they like, they swipe left. If two people swipe left, they are considered a ‘match’. They then have the opportunity to message one another privately.

The problem: A recent survey found there are more school-age children on Tinder than single adults over the age of 35. There’s also a version of Tinder specifically designed for children aged 13 to 17 years old. Child psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, was reported as saying that Tinder was a “…recipe for psychological disaster…”, especially because young brains have not fully developed yet.

What you can do: Tinder is used on an iPhone or Android phone, so check to see whether your child had downloaded the application. This will appear on their phone’s home screen and will look like a big red and white ‘T’. You may need to swipe across your child’s home screen, as when someone has multiple applications, they may be located across multiple pages.

If you’re not sure what an ‘application’ is, head to our Social Media Definitions page.

Tinder icon

MeowChat

How it works: MeowChat has been picking up steam lately. This relatively new social media network lets you chat randomly with strangers located near you. As such, it combines the core features of Tinder, with chat applications like WhatsApp. Users must be aged 13+.

The problem: MeowChat’s cute cat logo may look sugary sweet, but the app itself is risky for young people. Although the app does tell users never to send or request inappropriate images, this is still more than likely to occur. In fact, many profiles include requests like ‘no nudes please’, which indicates that receiving nude images is a reality for those using the app. Yes, the app can also be set to ‘private’, but its specifically designed to promote sharing, so users are less likely to embrace this feature.

What you can do: Once again, we recommend checking the home page of your child’s screen to see whether the MeowChat logo exists. If it does, you know your child is using it. Under 13’s are not allowed to use the app, and we strongly argue that, due to the prevalence of nude photos and creeps trying to contact users, it is unsuitable for anyone under 18. Explain the risks to your child and remove the app from their phone. Then check the phone regularly to ensure it has not been downloaded again.

Head here for more on the risks of MeowChat.

MeowChat icon

Your social media community

For more insights into keeping your child safe on social media, feel free to join our Safe Social Media community on Facebook. We regularly share tips and advice from other parents and experts in the social media space.

Head here to Follow Safe Social Media for Kids.

Kids playing with laptop computer at home

What parents are worried about when it comes to social media

The challenge of raising children to be resilient and smart about social media is felt by parents all around the world. It’s also a relatively new challenge, which means we’re only just working out the best ways to support our kids with issues such as cyber bullying and online predators.

Many of the parents we interview and speak with at eebudee, tell us they have, at some stage, felt unsure about how to approach raising their kids in this highly connected social-media age.

A recent survey conducted in the US, confirms that, when it comes to social media, many parents are concerned about the same things. While the study did focus on parents in the US, it arguably sheds light on the attitudes of parents in Australia too.

Here is what the survey discovered.

Parents worry about their kids viewing harmful content

One of the key findings from the survey was that parents are indeed worried about their child viewing harmful or inappropriate content. In fact, 76% of parents surveyed said this was a core concern for them.

The survey also found that:

  • 69% said they were very or somewhat concerned about their child communicating online with a stranger.
  • Parents were concerned about their child ‘over sharing’ personal content that could not be withdrawn later.
  • Despite a high proportion of parents monitoring their child’s behaviour online, confidence in ‘actively overseeing’ their child’s social media presence appeared to decrease as the child became older.

What does this mean for parents?

eebudee Founder and father of 2, Mike Fairclough, had this to say about the findings.

“Although the data may seem a little scary, it does tell us that parents have realistic concerns about the risks of social media,” he said.

“I believe that parents, in general, are handling the challenges of social media much more effectively than they give themselves credit for.”

Mike said there were many tangible things parents could do to minimise risk for their children online, including:

  • Speaking with other parents in the schoolyard about how they handle their child’s screen time.
  • If this isn’t possible, consider joining an online community of parents, where you can ask questions and read tips and insights from other parents.
  • Setting limits on your child’s screen time, for example, a cut off time every night when all mobile devices and computers are switched off and stored in a communal space.
  • Having passwords to your child’s social media accounts, so you can check to see who they are talking to online. (For more in-depth tips on monitoring your child online, please visit our blog on this important topic.)
  • Speaking openly with your children about social media and the risks of being online.
  • Spending a couple of minutes per day exploring the social media networks (such as Facebook) that your child uses.
  • Knowing that you’re not alone. Many other parents, like you, are doing their best to help their children stay safe online. Technology is moving faster than ever, so be gentle on yourself and take your own learning process one step at a time.

Discover more

For more insights into helping your children stay safe on social media, please visit our Facebook community – Safe Social Media for Kids. You may also benefit from signing up to eebudee, a safe social media program, which teaches young kids how to use social media in a secure environment.

 


* The survey

Data was taken from a survey conducted by a digital safety group in the US on behalf of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), a not-for-profit organisation also based in America.

  • 3 separate focus groups were surveyed to retrieve this data.
  • Each group had children from different age brackets (6 to 9, 10 to 13 and 14 to 17 years).
  • 585 parents (located in the US) were also surveyed online.
  • Participants of the online survey had children aged between 6 and 17.

At present, we have not been able to source research relating to parental views of children and social media in Australia.