How screens have helped us survive the quarantine…or not
In many countries, life is slowly getting back to “normal” after weeks of quarantine due to the Covid 19 coronavirus pandemic. I am wondering how children have lived this period confined at home doing distance learning while their parents are working from home. But, what is sure is that without our connected devices, this quarantine would have been really painful. Thanks to today’s technology, we have all managed to keep in touch with our families, friends, work and studies. So, for those who stayed safe and healthy, this radical change of life was big, but manageable because the first layer of the revised Maslow’s Hierachy of needs has not been impacted by this pandemic i.e: the wi-fi, the internet connection. Therefore, as long as families had a good internet connection, food in the fridge, a roof over their heads and loving relationships, this quarantine should have been a rather positive experience. However, this might not be the case for many families whose basic needs were not fulfilled. Let’s take the example of two families;
The first one who had enough to eat, a house and good wi-fi but who struggled to connect to each other and live harmoniously.
The second, had the same basic needs fulfilled and a strong connection.
Which family do you think would have spent most of their quarantine on screens?
Both families will have spent much more time in the virtual world than usual, this is normal and understandable given the social distancing. The quarantine has simply exacerbated the way we used screens. Those who loved video games before the pandemic, spent much more time playing than before, those who loved connecting with their friends on social media, spent more time on social networks, those who used screens to avoid their feeling of loneliness or difficulties, were tempted to use them even more to run away from reality. However, there is a fundamental difference between these two families: their level of integration and awareness.
The first one is not integrated and uses technology as a way to escape meaningful conversations or to have some peace. Quality time as a family, moments of sharing and fun together are not the norm. Parents are not aware that more than two hours on an iPad is bad for their children’s brain and sleep. There are simply no limits on the way technology is used and digital activities have substituted the non-screen activities.
On the other side, the second family feels united and real communication is the norm. Trust, respect and a feeling of connectedness are present. This family uses screens to work, study, learn, do Facetime with their relatives and friends and watch movies together. However, they are also aware of the risks of excessive use of technology for their health and they know how to balance their life with non screen activities. Parents set limits of screen time for their children and talk about what they do on their devices and how to navigate in the digital world safely. At home, they have always respected the rules of 3-6-9-12 which means: no screen before 3 years old, no video games before 6, guided introduction to the internet from 9, surfing on the net alone but with careful coaching by parents from 12. Now more than ever, they are very strict with these rules because they know that if they don’t respect these principles, it will be very hard to go back once a habit is taken.
The way screens have been used during the confinement will determine the way they will be used after this period. But what differentiates the most about the members of this family compared to the first one is that they don’t let technology guide their life, weaken their links and ruin their cohesion. They know that to live a healthy and balanced family life, the quality of their relationships matter more than the number of ‘likes’ they get on their posts. The fun they have playing board games together nourishes them more than the hundreds of pictures seen on Instagram, the adventures they have – walking in the wood will mark their memory much more than the Youtube videos watched on the sofa, the joy of a bike ride together is much more rewarding than 5 hours on video games.
We all have an ambiguous relationship with technology. We love it because it enables us to work/study from home, keep in contact with our loved ones and learn new things in one click. However, we all know how we feel when we have abused our time on screens. Moreover, technological progress is phenomenal and we will soon live most of our life with the augmented reality which will allow us to see our reality with one eye and get projected information from our glasses directly on our second eye. In the near future, access to the digital world will no longer require screens as we will be able to access it directly from our body. Scary, isn’t it?
Before we reach that stage, children need to be educated and coached on the way they use technology. They need to be aware about the risks for their health, their privacy, their security. Children need to be guided in the digital world, they need to develop basic skills to navigate in these virtual spaces without losing themselves. This should be the role of schools but it is not mainstreamed yet. In the meantime, there are cyber coaches who guide children on how to use the internet and social media in a safe way. A life coach will help children be aware of the risks for their health, their mental well-being and prevent addictive digital behaviours in order to keep a balanced and healthy lifestyle. With a family-based approach, kids life coaching empowers children by giving them the tools to make the right choices for themselves while building their foundations to lead a responsible, healthy and inspiring life.
Aurélie Andriamialison – Seeds of Joy Kids Life Studio®, Switzerland
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 These guiding principles have been created by the Psychiatrist Serge Tisseron in 2008.