From the Principal

Is technology disrupting childhood?


The effect and influence of social media and the place of technology in our lives is a hot topic among employers, social researchers, governments, schools and, unsurprisingly, parents. A recent article titled “How Smart Phones and Social Media are Stealing Childhood” raises interesting questions about technology and its influence on children and young people. We are all aware that separating a teenager from their phones and devices can be quite a challenge. They are often glued to their phones, posting on social media, and at times, revealing details about themselves that they may later regret.


A survey by the U.K.’s Safer Internet Centre of 1,500 8 - 17 year olds revealed that one in eight had shared a selfie in the last hour. There are reports that the trend among Silicon Valley executives is to have their children have little or no access to technology. Recent surveys from the U.S. and U.K. indicate that the average age for getting a first smartphone is about 10, and half of all kids have social media accounts by the age of 12. The surveys also indicate that teens are spending an extraordinary amount of time online. Even if the findings in Australia are different, and I have no reason to believe they would be, our own experience of kids would indicate that technology and being connected is an essential part of the lives of teenagers.

What we do know is that many parents and teachers find phones and other devices to be hugely problematic and many would like to just throw their kids phones into the garbage and make them go outside and play. The irony here is that adults are also avid users of social media. A Pew Research Centre survey (Washington DC) found that text messaging is the most common way for parents to keep in touch with kids. So it might be a case of do what I say, not what I do.

So to answer the question posed, I would suggest that technology is disrupting life and, as such, it is disrupting childhood. The deeper issue is how do we keep our children healthy in all aspects of life, including their use and exposure to social media? To answer this question I bow to the wisdom of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) who said, “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide”. Parents and teachers probably need to recognise that social media is a reality of life. It is only through example and the occasional word that we can legitimately insist on moderation in our homes and in the lives of our kids.

Have a great weekend

Dr Pitt


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