Monitoring a digital world

Sometimes, the hard questions have to be asked of the Hahunga boys in Papamoa.

For example, Hamish, Elthan, Dominic, how many minutes, or hours as the case may, did you really spend on your computer last week?

And Dad Josh might also ask them: “Are you sure it was only that much?” And they may answer: “Okay no, there was also this and that”. No blaming or shaming here. It’s all in the interests of research and for the greater good.

This is a family documenting their engagement with technology minute-by-minute, day-by-day for a whole year so data can analyse – and so others may benefit.

“A lot of it is about giving back really because there are many people who have the skills and there also lots of people with fears their children might be accessing stuff that they know absolutely nothing about,” says Mum Delwynne.

The Hahunga family is one technologically shrewd and knowledgeable family. “Yes, fortunately we are reasonably savvy,” says Josh.

They also have a history of project management and are community-oriented. “So we fitted and should be able to add value.”

They ‘fitted’ into something called The Parent Project. It’s a Vodafone initiative and will address issues like keeping families safe online, kids spending too much time on devices and upskilling on parental controls and tools.

So Vodafone can produce those tools, it invited the Hahungas and three other families nationwide to provide some real world experiences. “Vodafone’s in the thick of the corporate environment so it’s probably not aware of what’s happening out there,” says Delwynne.

“Parent’s want to hear from the experts,” says Vodafone’s Liz Wilson. “But they also want to hear from other parents.”

In turn, Vodafone will share those experiences through articles, videos and guides to help Kiwi families make sense of the digital world. They will offer templates for parents to sit down and talk to their kids, for setting expectations and also guidelines for how long kids are allowed to be online.

To get there Vodafone is working with the Hahungas – complementing what is actually already happening in their home. They’re advising on how to better manage daily digital life, track screen-time, set up and use parental controls, age-guides and one-on-one sessions with a coach to discuss the family’s digital needs.

“They are doing this out of corporate responsibility because there is so much fear out there,” says Josh. Fortunately, the Hahungas don’t have that issue but it’s still out there.

The project comes on the back of research which shows one in three Kiwi teens have experienced cyberbullying, which is greater than the global average.

“It’s not a fear for us because we have always had an open communication with the boys. In fact, we demand it,” says Josh.

“But there are a lot of parents who have no idea what children are doing on their devices. “Because they don’t sit down with them and have a look,” says Delwynne.

“Children are going to strike things on the internet, they will see things and they are going to want to look at things.” But for the Hahungas it’s a case of “come and see us.”

The parents talk the boys through it. How did this happen? What were you doing? “Then we take them three or four steps back, before they got into trouble, so you can suggest they don’t go down that path again.”

Just because the Hahungas are savvy doesn’t mean they are immune. “One of the boys had pornographic pop-ups come up on screen all of a sudden, “oh what’s this”, he was just searching around,” says Josh.

Again Mum and Dad got to know and got to deal with it. “Your friend down the road might be able to give your advice but it may not be good advice,” says Delwynne. “Kids should always remember Mum and Dad are the people you can come to.”

And the Hahungas says parents still have to have that conversation. “What are you up to? Show me. How does it work?”

They say The Parent Project isn’t about taking over your parental responsibilities. “It’s about being equipped to be a better parent and a good parent. And there’s enormous satisfaction helping out young people to be better people.”


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