KIDS READING IN THE DIGITAL WORLD
I am often asked about how Scoop, as a printed magazine, competes with the online world. The truth is, we don’t. We have never set out to compete with a world that the next generation are growing up with as a central part of their everyday lives. Children use screens for all sorts of reasons, from researching homework to playing games, to connecting with their friends. There are dangers of course but for the most part the parents, teachers and children we speak to have a very good balance between online life and taking part in the world all around them.
We find that children don’t see the choice being between reading content online versus a printed book or magazine. The choice is about the content itself. If the book or the magazine engages them, sparks something, they are hooked, and the same goes for on screen.
We publish Scoop primarily as a printed magazine because we believe that it is incredibly important for children to have an alternative to screen time. That they can turn off and take their magazine or book into a private space and get lost in it without the worry of what they might find or the stress that screen time often produces after long stints.
This month the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said:
‘Time spent online can be of great benefit to children and young people, providing opportunities for learning and skills development, as well as allowing young people to find support and information. But we need to take a precautionary approach and our advice will support children to reap these benefits and protect them from harm.’
The full report by the Department of Health and Social Care has published that advice as tips for families on how to create the balance and be aware of the dangers.
- Sleep matters. Getting enough, good quality sleep is very important. Leave phones outside the bedroom when it is bedtime.
- Talking helps. Talk with your children about using devices and what they are watching. A change in behaviour can be a sign they are distressed – make sure they know they can always speak to you or another responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with screen or social media use.
- Safety when out and about. Advise children to put their screens away while crossing the road or doing an activity that needs their full attention!
- Sharing sensibly. Parents and children should talk about sharing photos and information online and how photos and words are sometimes manipulated. Parents should never assume that their children are happy for their photos to be shared. For everyone – when in doubt, don’t upload!
- Keep moving! Everyone should take a break after a couple of hours of sitting or lying down using a screen. #sitlessmovemore
- Education matters. Make sure you and your children are aware of, and abide by their school’s policy on mobile phones/personal devices.
- Use helpful phone features. Some devices and platforms have special features – try using these features to keep track of how much time you (and with their permission, your children) spend looking at a screen or on social media.
- Family time together. Screen-free meal times are a good idea – you can enjoy face-to-face conversation, with adults giving their full attention to children.
Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts said: ‘It’s good to see these common sense guidelines around good sleep, exercise and family time; over the years there have been thousands of conversations on about healthy family habits, and evidence-based recommendations are really welcome. Screen time guidelines for different age groups would in particular be very welcome as the ubiquity of screens is new territory for many who don’t have their own childhood experience to draw on. But in the absence of that, one thing our users agree on is that talking to your children is absolutely key and it’s great to see this recognised in the CMO’s report.’
I believe the printed page will never lose its magic but we cannot pretend that our children aren’t spending more and more time engaged in a new world, the potential and scope of which we are only just beginning to understand.
Editor in Chief, Scoop Magazine
Many organisations are working to support parents and guardians in keeping CYP safe online. The following sites contain information and tools:
- The UK Council for Internet Safety has developed a framework to equip children and young people for digital life and guidance for parents on minimising their child’s risk of online harm.
- The UK Safer Internet Centre has developed a platform where people can report harmful content online if they are not satisfied with the result of their report to social media providers. For illegal content, reports should be made to the police and online to the Internet Watch Foundation.
- The UK Safer Internet Centre have partnered with Childnet International to create specific guidance on Keeping under 5s safe online.