Navigating the Digital World with Teens in Marysville
Last week, Eduro Learning hosted an educational night for parents and students called, “Navigating the Digital World with Teens” in partnership with Marysville School District. Parents and their teens were invited to join in a conversation facilitated by Jeff Utecht and Kim Cofino about what parenting in the digital world looks like.
One of the first topics discussed was citizenship. Parents and their teens brainstormed words that described what citizenship is. Later, they were asked to write the word “digital” in front of the word citizenship, which was already on the paper. They were then asked to star the words they had brainstormed that applied to digital citizenship as well. This exercise helped teens and their parents see that citizenship is fairly similar, whether it is face-to-face or digital.
Parents in the group expressed their worry about distraction, and device addiction. As it turns out, most kids aren’t actually addicted to their devices, they’re just really distracted by them. If you’re genuinely concerned about device addiction, we recommend speaking with a specialist (beginning with your school counselor), however, here are some warning signs to look for: your child won’t eat, won’t interact with others, or is hiding their device behavior.
So, how do parents manage device distraction in the home? Kim discussed some ways to manage screen time, which you can read here.
Another strategy? A tech break. But probably not the kind you’re thinking. Rather than making your child take a break from their device, set a timer for 30 minutes to focus on homework, and when they’ve completed the prescribed amount of time, they’re allowed to do whatever they want, within reason, on the device for 15minutes. Once the time is up, they return to the original task. Research shows that the average person canfocus on a task for 3 minutes before being disrupted by a distraction, which is often in the form of technology. Cal State Dominguez Hills psychology professor Larry Rosen discusses the reasoning behind this idea: “If your brain keeps thinking about a text message you need to return, it’s better to send that text to get the nagging impulse out of your head. Once you stop thinking about sending that text, then you’ve literally freed up space in your brain to focus on more important things, like homework.”
Jeff and Kim also suggested a Family Media Agreement, like the Responsible Use Agreement signed for children to access technology at school, be used at home. Everyone, not just the parents, comes to an agreement with how technology will be used in the home, and comes up with clear and agreed consequences for breaking the agreement. Example terms include laptops only in family areas (no bedrooms), set social time set aside for family, and devices put away to charge in the kitchen at 8 PM each night. You can print out a family agreement, which is segmented by your child’s grade level.
The biggest idea that Jeff and Kim urged was for parents and teens to keep communicating. While technology is a tough topic to talk about, it is a very large part of our lives. Learning smart habits about technology use now will help children as they grow up and self-monitor themselves.