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Bridging the digital gap with tech-smart Hong Kong teens

A recent report acknowledged that while there is no turning back the clock on how children engage with technology – usually through their smartphones – parents and schools need to work together to promote a better understanding of the benefits and risks that technology tools such as social media can involve.

The head of the Australian International School Hong Kong sad that the use of smartphones and the amount of time spent using social media probably causes more arguments between parents and their children than any other topic. The head was also one of the panellists discussing the topic of “Dealing with digitally savvy teens” at the International Schools Festival, held by in mid-September 2018.

The head stated that one of his prime concerns is the frustration that students feel due to the disconnect of always being connected to the internet outside school but subject to rules preventing them from using their smartphones while in school.

It was suggested that the problem often lies in a lack of guidance over the use of smartphones outside school.

Law-makers, policy drafters, curriculum creators and other parties invested in education need to find ways for parents, schools and students to work together to bring about a better balance.

It was explained that while parents usually view technology as “something extra” to be used to achieve an objective, students see the use of smartphones and technology as their “default” solution.

The experts present at the panel discussion were all in agreement; while technology plays a vital role in education, the positive or negative effects of online activities outside school depend on the type of media, the type of use, the amount and extent of use, and the characteristics of the individual child.

With jobs set to become increasingly dependent on the use of technology, the panellists agreed that schools would be failing in their duty if students were not fully prepared and “tech-savvy” to embrace the opportunities they will encounter.

One expert stated that it is important to note that in a world where children are “growing up digital”, it’s important to help them learn healthy concepts about digital use and citizenship.

In addition, positive outcomes could not be expected from issuing bans on the use of social media and other online activities, whether at school or at home. The expert suggested setting up, as the Canadian International School has done, an “acceptable use” policy, which students themselves help design.

When it comes to preschool and kindergarten children, the panellists were particularly concerned about parents giving their children their smartphones as an emotional pacifier.

They said young children learn best through two-way communication and conversations with their parents and friends. Instead of becoming engaged in arguments over the use of smartphones and social media.

One expert noted put forward the suggestion that parents need to set goals to develop a good relationship with technology in their families.

For instance, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online, not just the amount of time they spend on it.

To set a good example, they also need to be aware of their own online activities.

According to one expert, parents have an opportunity to teach young children that ‘smartphones are for smart people.

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