AUSTRALIA’S highest profile psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg is urging our schools to ban smartphones in the classroom if we want to avoid a future of psychologically damaged children.
The leading Australian authority on teenage behaviour told the Riv social media was contributing to mental illness in our youth as well as the staggering suicide rate and something needed to be done.
‘‘The psychological wellbeing of children and teenagers is at an all-time low,’’ he said.
‘‘One in seven primary school kids have a psychological problem and one in four teenagers.
‘‘It’s much worse in regional and rural areas. The suicide rate is much higher and that’s due to lack of mental health services.’’
And, according to the author of 12 books, social media isn’t doing our young people any favours.
‘‘No child under the age of 13 should be on social media or have a smartphone,’’ he said.
Speaking at six sessions at Moama Bowling Club last week, Dr Carr-Gregg urged teachers to make a rule not to allow smartphones on campus.
‘‘If we did that, that would be a start,’’ he said.
‘‘The key theme of this talk is to make sure schools and parents communicate with one another and work together to solve these problems because it’s only working together as a community that we can actually get anywhere.’’
When it comes to parenting a child who is using social media, Dr Carr-Gregg said parents needed to be monitoring them closely and telling them two things.
‘‘One is you should never post anything online that you wouldn’t want your principal, police, your parents or a paedophile to see. The four Ps,’’ he said.
‘‘The second thing you have to tell them is that you need to treat everybody online as you would want to be treated — with respect.
‘‘It’s highly likely you’re going to be hassled online. It’s not if that happens but when, and we need to prepare our children for that.
‘‘When that happens, never reply, ever. Make sure you block the person, make sure you save the evidence and make sure you report the abuse.’’
Dr Carr-Gregg said parents needed to be teaching their children those basics as much as teaching them how to cross the street or learning to swim.
‘‘They’re the absolute fundamentals of parenting in 2018,’’ he said.
As well as social media, boredom, isolation, lack of extended family and broken kinship networks were other risk factors for mental illness in young people, according to Dr Carr-Gregg.
‘‘There are more risk factors now than there were when we grew up and far fewer protective factors which is why we are seeing such a deterioration of mental health,’’ he said.
So if parents could take one thing away from his sessions, Dr Carr-Gregg said it would be to communicate with their children.
‘‘Spend at least eight minutes a day every day with your kid getting down on your knees, looking them in the eye, asking them about their day and life, listening very carefully, focusing on their content and then reflecting back to them on what you’ve heard because virtually all of the major risk factors can be mitigated by the kid feeling safe, valued and listened to,’’ he said.
‘‘So if you maintain that relationship you’re basically doing a great thing.’’
Dr Carr-Gregg’s information sessions were funded by Carer Support Services to support parents and professionals working with local children.