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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 53 Summer 2013
16 Below, I present two short extracts from parent interviews (two mothers) about their kindy-aged children’s use of digital technology in their family lives. Both these families had a child in kindy and older children in the primary school settings. These extracts specifically discuss family rules of use. Parent 1: Mother: There are rules because if they wake up in the morning and go straight on to them, they won't get changed, they won't have breakfast, they will stay on their tablet. So I've told them they're not allowed to play on the tablet, it has to stay on the charger, they can go on it after school, after they've done their homework, after they have their afternoon snack and after they've had dinner. That's when they can go on. They've got their own but fight over each other's. Can I play? I let you play on my one. So the rules are a bit shaky at the moment. Parent 2: Mother: Typically, I try to get them to do it in a room where I'm floating in and out of but only this week it happened again. It was like, what's that noise? So it's really difficult because you can't be around them all the time and we're not adept enough to screen things out or whatever else, so they do hear it. But yeah, I suppose they need to encounter it somehow and we just try to limit it and make them understand that was right but I don't know. [Aside] So yeah, it is challenging. Susan: Do you have rules around the use? Mother: There's supposed to be no computers in the bedrooms but it's typical with laptops and iPods that they easily go walking. From my perspective, the silence is bliss until I realise why it's silent and hunt after them. In these two brief extracts above, both mothers reported that the children were drawn and motivated to use the mobile devices. The children in the home contexts were engaging intensively with the tablets and smart phones. The mothers reported managing the children’s use of technology against a backdrop of everyday family life where the mothers constantly monitored what the children were doing, when they were using the devices and where the activities were taking place. Following well-publicised guidelines about rules of use, such as keeping the computer in a public area of the home for all members of the family to use and see, seems relatively straightforward. The reality, however, is that following this guideline is not as clear cut as one might think, particularly when the devices are becoming increasingly smaller and more mobile. In these interviews, both parents addressed managing the practical aspects, such as dealing with a flat battery, and they emphasised the social nature and social interactions occurring when children were using these devices. What became evident in the discussions with the mothers was the role of social interaction around the use of these technologies: about when to use them, who used them, how the children and adults negotiated the conditions of use, and how the children interacted with their siblings. How family members engaged with technology as part of the flow of everyday life was shown in these interviews: how does engagement with the devices co-occur with other more well-known activities of getting ready to go to school, having breakfast and doing homework? How are practices such as sharing and using each other’s devices negotiated, and under what conditions of family life? The bigger question is not just about the technology that is being used, but rather how mobile technologies provide new interactional opportunities for family members to communicate with each other and find solutions to living together in family life. The ways that these matters are resolved by parents and children, and what they see as important issues and matters for attention, are constant matters of negotiation among family members. While the extracts discussed here are from family contexts, these bigger questions about how these devices afford particular types of communication practices are as relevant in early childhood classrooms where teachers also make decisions about how technology is par t of the flow of everyday classroom life. Communication is central to successful social interaction, and an integral aspect of participating in everyday social life of the home and classroom. Studying how young children engage with digital technologies provides opportunities for measuring, in more graduated and distinctive ways, the impact of such technology. Only time and increased understandings of ever yday practices will tell the real values and scope of using digital media. reflections.issue53_Layout 1 11/11/13 2:27 PM Page 16
Reflections Magazine Issue 52
Reflections Magazine Issue 54