Our children are facing a very different future to the one we were parented to face, so it’s important that we teach them the skills that they need in order for them to thrive. Knowing how to manage their own screen time behaviour is a key digital wellbeing skill. We are keen to help you do this and have designed Play by Spark to be a way to support you to guide your children to develop healthy tech habits.
Digital wellbeing promotes the self-regulation of screen use and places emphasis on mindful use of technology (information gathering) over mindless use of technology (spending hours on YouTube), and encourages choices that embrace the balance between screen time and the real world. Creating these positive habits at a young age can better help prepare our kids for a digital future.
Self-regulation is the ability to make good choices about our behaviour at the right time and is highly linked to wellbeing. A big part of self-regulation is managing our impulses and tolerating feelings such as boredom. When we spend too much time on screens we don’t get the opportunity to learn how to do this. This is because screens provide the opportunity to swipe our boredom away or choose from a number of options instantly which makes us more impulsive. The more we use screens, the less likely we are to develop the regulation skills we need to use them well.
It is really important that we learn good self-regulation skills (in the real world) before screens become part of our daily lives as screens are really compelling. Screens ‘hijack’ our brain’s reward pathways by releasing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is released in the brain when we see something new so we focus our attention on that new thing to learn more about it. Screens provide access to lots of new information, so when we use them, dopamine is released regularly. Dopamine feels good, so therefore using screens feels good. This is why kids crave screen time, struggle to come off and want to go back onto their screens. Their brains want the dopamine hit that screens give them. Active play helps us to get this and other happy hormones elsewhere and rewires the brain to not rely on screens so much for a dopamine hit. If a human brain doesn't have access to the real world experiences it needs to learn how to regulate behaviour, then screen use can become pervasive as we don’t have the skills to achieve a healthy balance.