WHEN Brisbane teacher Jesse Hewitt worked in a kindergarten last year, a common issue he heard over and over again from parents was how to wean children off a bad screen obsession.
“A lot of parents were coming up to me having this conversation (about screen time) saying it was affecting their children’s behaviour, their sleeping pattern, and of course we know prolonged screen time can be damaging for vision and social skills,” Mr Hewitt said.
And they’re not alone – a survey by the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne found that 80 per cent of parents were concerned about their child’s screen use.
Hearing the pleas of desperate parents around the country, Mr Hewitt teamed up with his graphic designer friend of five years Julian Steincke to design and publish an educational book about balancing screen time.
“We thought let’s write a book about it to get the message out there, and go for more of a preventative approach as opposed to trying to fix the problem 10 to 15 years on when children are coming in with eye problems and behavioural problems,” Mr Hewitt said.
Raymond the Raccoon Misses His Friends was released last month, and follows the adventures of a loveable raccoon who realises the “harsh realities involved in a culture dominated by screen obsession”.
“The moral of the story is that you have more fun off of the screens than sitting there by yourself being on the screen,” Mr Hewitt said.
He said while doing preliminary research on the impact of screen use on children, he learnt that apps and devices were being designed to be addictive.
“The scariest thing for us is they literally have psychologists behind these devices, working for these companies and software application companies, who know how the child’s brain works and who are specifically tweaking the devices and apps to make them as addictive as possible and to keep these children on the screen, which we think is so highly unethical,” Mr Hewitt said.
“We really feel that we have a responsibility to help teach children from a young age to be responsible and to use screens responsibly.”
Thoughtfully designed using bright colours and simple shapes, Mr Hewitt said the book was aimed at children aged three to nine.
Towards the back of the book is an “instruction manual” for parents and teachers on how to read the book “to maximise the message so that children can really understand the context”.
“It’s basically an instruction manual on which prompting questions and how to read the story in a very specific way to maximise the message for children and to really understand the message we’re trying to send,” Mr Hewitt said.
“A lot of the story does come down to the illustration which set the context for the children.”
The Catholic Leader is giving away a copy of Raymond the Raccoon Misses His Friends.
To enter to win a copy of Raymond the Raccoon Misses His Friends by Jesse Hewitt and Julian Steincke, email your name, address and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Raymond the Raccoon giveaway’.
Terms and conditions: Competition closes December 20. Only one entry per person allowed. Details: One winner be selected at random at The Catholic Leader office in Brisbane. The winner will be notified by email and phone on December 22. Prize will be delivered to the winner’s nominated postal address.