A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 12 - 2021

Less screen time more green time, was the tagline of a recent article on the ABC website. Perfect for Westminster! While it is convenient to hijack this tagline, it is not fair as it undermines the importance of what was discussed. The article was written in regard to a recent global study that has found out more about the impact of screen time on the health of adolescents between the ages of 11 and 15.

Screen time was defined as television, video games and social media but it excluded screen time for academic purposes. The study showed that a detrimental mental health impact starts at two hours screen time for girls and four hours for boys. The author went on to recommend one hour of physical activity for all kids every day. The study’s gender difference in screen time has come about by what is happening online - boys are often gaming or doing something active, which doesn’t necessarily hold the same appeal for many girls.

Girls are often more emotionally developed than boys of the same age, with studies showing that men are not fully cognitively mature until they are in their late twenties, while women reach cognitive maturity in their early to mid-twenties. Greater emotional maturity may lead to different interpretations of emotional stimuli, especially on social media. Girls can face an increased pressure to think about how their peers will perceive or judge them online. Time Magazine has reported that girls experience more cyberbullying than boys and may be uniquely bothered by certain aspects of it, which contributes to an increased mental impact of screen time.

Regardless of gender, less screen time and more ‘green time’ is good for the wellbeing of us all, particularly when the recreational activities involve an element of risk. The decision-making based around risk helps us develop resilience and the capacity to learn from failures. Many activities at School give our children the chance to learn about risk, perhaps with two excellent examples being Outdoor Education and the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award program.

Today, there are more regulations and rules keeping bicycle riders safe than ever. There are more bike lanes than ever and public awareness around rider safety is ever-growing, yet less children ride to school than most generations before them. A quick survey at the Senior School assembly showed that more teachers over 40 years of age rode their bikes to School than the whole of our Senior School student cohort. Perhaps riding to School is one opportunity for increasing physical activity, managing a bit of risk, helping the environment and, of course, qualifying as ‘green time’. Arriving at School adds in even more ‘green time’!

‘Green time’ will abound at Westminster from late Friday 20 August to late Saturday 21 August with it being our School’s year to host the Intercol with Pembroke. This time around will be different with COVID-19 community restrictions in place. We are working through these in detail with Pembroke to find the best way that we can preserve the spirit of the competition within the necessary restrictions. We will be writing to parents and caregivers in the coming week with details around Intercol and what will need to be in place. Of course, we would all dearly love to hold a completely open and unrestricted Intercol weekend. But we know that this will not be possible and there will understandably be some disappointment experienced in making sure our State’s essential health requirements are met. Your cooperation with this is, as always, greatly appreciated. In light of everything happening around us, we are grateful that our large cohort of players can enjoy competing in the Intercol, marking up scores of ‘green time’ and doing their very best as proud students of Westminster School.

Simon Shepherd