Why we need digital wellness in schools

Smartphone addiction in schools is becoming a hot topic in the industry. Both parents and educators must take lead and learn how to manage screen time and raise awareness of the negative impact of technology overuse.  Together we need to create a balance between using devices in the classroom and engaging in offline activities.

The most obvious problems come in the form of eye strain or issues associated with sitting for too long. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a maximum of two hours of sedentary screen time per day.

digital wellness in schools

It appears that a lot of screen time is associated with poorer sleep quality and possibly a lower performance at school as a result. At the same time, social media platforms can have a good or bad impact on mental health depending on how they are used. Cyberbullying is a major issue that needs swift intervention.

As Oxford professors put it, The debate over digital technology and young people needs less shock and more substance”.

However, we can’t ignore the extent of technology use in our lives. According to the Pew Research Center, “Fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online ‘almost constantly’”. This type of data can help educators, parents, or policy makers better understand how students interact with technology, particularly how to create a healthy relationship with it.

Fortunately, schools have already set an example by creating their own digital wellness initiatives. Hilliard City Schools in Columbus, Ohio are helping students create a balance at school and at home. Washington University is encouraging students to take control of their life online.

ISTE also has great standards for students, and Common Sense Education is helping teachers by creating a comprehensive K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum.

If you a teacher, here are some resources and tips before taking on a digital wellness initiative.

Habits are not changed over night

Just because you know that spending dinner on your phone is bad is not going to make you stop – or make teens take a break. In fact, we have extensive knowledge of how things can be potentially bad for us, yet we still do those things all the time. Yale professors Laurie R. Santos and Tamar Gendler call this the G.I Joe Fallacy. As the popular cartoon character always says, “Knowing is half the battle”. This is far from the truth. Teaching digital wellbeing in theory is just the first step, not the whole lesson.

The family can be involved

Back when I was in elementary school, I could only access the internet during Computer class. Nowadays, very young children can have their own tablets. The accessibility of technology means that they mostly learn about it at home and pick up on how their family members interact with technology. It also appears that more and more adults are struggling with their own digital wellbeing. This tells us that finding a balance is hard even when you know how to regulate your emotions and delay gratification. Demanding instant change from children, teenagers, and even young adults is too much, especially if we don’t model the positive behavior ourselves. Patience is key and so is a good school-family communication.

Teach efficient technology use

As adults, we have two major assumptions. First, we assume that as digital natives, students just get everything instantly so there is no need for teaching them how to use tech. Second, technology comes in many forms and we tend to lump it all together when we talk about it. In reality, the quality of the tools and devices matters. Using an educational app for one hour per day is far more valuable than something that offers just entertainment. Technology might make students more productive if used to do homework. It can also be addictive because it was created that way, so there needs to be a limit.

Conclusion

Excessive screen time and a lack of responsibility for time spent online is detrimental to students’ digital wellbeing. Schools can take charge and teach their students how to build better habits, whether it is by teaching internet etiquette or encouraging parents to set boundaries.

In the end, digital wellbeing is about learning how to spend quality and not quantity time. The end goal is a healthier relationship with technology that will serve them for a lifetime, not just during classroom hours.



Via: Adapted from Neolms blog

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