One of the more challenging issues shared by both educators and parents is helping young adults manage their smartphone and social media activity in a positive and healthy manner.
Recent studies indicate today’s students take longer to complete assigned work and experience a higher degree of anxiety when completing this work because they spend an extraordinary amount of time using their smartphones to check in on various social media apps. This behaviour is also having a negative impact on the quality of student sleep, which is concerning, as sleep is a critical component for effective learning.
As educators and parents there are several ways we can work together to help students develop better digital habits. As a means of helping our students take a break from their phones and spend more time socializing with their peers, we have made the Lodge a cell-phone free zone. Students in Grade 7 and 8 have limited use of their phones during the school day. Advisers in these grades are dedicating more time to the development of digital citizenship. We also have a guest speaker later this month who will explore the same topic with the entire student body.
We are also trying to help parents better understand social media and its impact on teenagers. Last week we hosted a session with social media expert Chris Vollum, as well as a follow up parent conversation. Later this year, Dr. Alex Russell will lead a workshop for parents on building resiliency in teenagers and in April, Dr. Greg Wells will offer a presentation for parents and students on the importance of sleep, diet, and exercise for teenagers.
Here are a few other things parents can do to help their children manage technology.
Ensure your children take a break from technology. Experts recommend taking a 10 to 15 minute break from technology after using it for 90 minutes.
Teenagers need 9 hours of sleep. To support good sleep habits, have all phones on a charger in some common area of your household (e.g. the kitchen) by 9 pm, as doing so, ensures phones are not being checked too close to bedtime or during the night.
One of the things we have learned from our work with Dr. Greg Wells is that protecting the hour before bedtime is critical to good sleep. Having children use the hour before bedtime to read some fiction or keep a journal is a good habit to develop.
Model effective technology usage habits for your children. Make meal time tech free time for your family. Consider minimizing alerts and notifications during meal time.
Use topical social media issues as a discussion point with your children. Of particular importance, is helping them understand that social media apps such as Instagram are a constructed reality, rather than reality itself.
Like you, we want our students to use technology in a way that benefits their learning and growth as individuals.