A panel discussion was organized as a joint collaboration between James Cook University Psychology Society and Golden Key Singapore. The theme for this year’s panel discussion was “Living in the Digital Age and Parenting Challenges”. This topic was thought to be highly relevant in today’s context, since we are all highly dependant on the technology use in our everyday lives.

Professionals from varying fields were invited to be on the panel and to provide their unique perspectives on the topic. We were honored to have invited Dr. Aoife McLoughlin, Associate Professor Roberto Dillon and Dr Koong Hean Foo as the respective speakers for the discussion.

Dr. McLoughlin, a psychologist specializing in the perception of time, shared her views about how technology by its very nature could cause us to lose track of time, in the same way that the television, or a good book can. However, an overuse of technology would be considered as an addiction, whereas reading for hours each day is seen as a healthy habit. Dr McLoughlin explored the reasons as to why this difference is observed and where the differences lie. She suggested that careful monitoring is necessary to ensure that children are accessing only information that is suitable for them, via parental control and online extensions like ‘stay focused’.

Associate Professor Dillon, a professional in game design, provided an interesting perspective on features of digital media today are engineered to be addictive in nature. He shared that games were considered to be an avenue for escapism from reality and the provision of rewards is appealing to gamers, in a very hedonistic manner. A particularly unique viewpoint he shared was that in recent years, game developers have turned to using the removal of awards in order to appeal to gamers. As counter-intuitive as that might sound, his words made much sense when he drew relevance to games like ‘Farm Story’ in which the players’ crops would die after a certain amount of time, so that players would be motivated to return to the game again and again. Associate Professor Dillon, however, acknowledged that video games are complex and powerful mediums that could help to train and teach players essential skills. Nevertheless, he warned that game designers purposefully design games such that the players would want to return to the game continuously, as game companies ultimately runs a business. As a caveat, he suggested that future games should include a game lockdown system; controlling the amount of time a player spends on a game. He also suggested the possibility of subdividing the game into smaller quests in order to ensure progress on the game can be self-contained.

Dr Foo, a psychologist specializing the field of social psychology and family dynamics, shared his interesting perspective that the use of digital media only becomes a problem today because of poor time management, rather than because of addiction. He also shared his view on how parents might try to communicate with their children when there is poor time management. Dr Foo then wrapped up his session with a constructive advice to many of the parents present in the panel discussion: It is important to be a good role model for the children and to spend quality time with their family, rather than turn to various forms of digital media; be it for work or for leisure. In other words, go out on weekends for a family picnic or play sports outdoors, rather than stay cooped up at home watching the television or using the computer!

The panel discussion turned out to be a successful and worthwhile event due to the enthusiasm from students and parents who attended. Students were active in providing critical insight to the issue and parents were enthusiastic in sharing their own experiences in relation to the views shared by the respective speakers. Lastly, we would like to extend our gratitude to our respective speakers who provided their unique insights into the discussion, JCU Campus activities for helping out with the event, and those who attended for making the panel discussion an insightful and exciting one! 

Please feel free to send us an email or post on our GKS Facebook page for any future topics you would be interested in for our next panel discussion.

Carol Lin
Outgoing-President 2013/2014