Tech and our Kids...
Technology and Our Kids
On Thursday of this week, we had the good fortune of seeing the award-winning film, “Screenagers”. There were two morning and evening viewing opportunities for parents, and the entire Middle School student body saw it that afternoon. Without bias, the documentary clearly and succinctly conveyed the challenges facing parents and educators related to the exponential increase in “screen time” among children of all ages.
First and foremost is the connection between what are now very clear studies on brain growth, particularly that of the growing adolescent, and the addictive power of prolonged exposure to any device. Of importance is that this so-called “dopamine effect” is more profound in young brains, and like any addiction must be treated as such.
The key to mitigating this is for those of us on the other side of the equation to provide stimulating alternative opportunities for children that foster more well-roundedness to their growth and development. As a result it is arguably more important than ever for schools to maintain multi-faceted programs that include a variety of co-curricular, extra-curricular, and after-school offerings. This coupled with parental efforts to encourage the same on the home front is important. Although this runs counter to what are at times our own admonishments to avoid over scheduling, it can work if one keeps balance as the over-all goal.
The film further spoke to the counter productivity of multi-tasking. Although there can be a sense of accomplishment in seemingly getting a lot of things done at one time, studies portray a different reality. In fact, in these instances the brain can become overly tired, and the ability to grasp new things diminished and over-all learning clearly compromised. This is a salient point that gives little validation to student arguments that doing other things (i.e. using devices) while sitting in class or doing homework has little effect.
Moreover, the difference between how boys and girls use and respond to their devices is markedly different. Girls tend to find social media extremely attractive, whereas boys take a more pragmatic approach to that, but instead can be quite consumed by “gaming”. This natural tendency can amplify a girls’ sensitivities to where they fall socially among peers and exacerbate their feelings about body image and “social worth,” oftentimes at the detriment of their own emotional stability. Boys on the other hand can be attracted to more violent portrayals of life in game format, and although the studies do not clearly connect violence in videos to a violent life-style, this lack of clarity is not worth the risk.
There are two action items that parents can put into play almost immediately.
One is to set rules regarding device use. Do not, however, make rules in a vacuum. Include your child in their development. By co-authoring such a document – yes, it’s good to have it in writing – the art of compromise can be employed and more desirable outcomes achieved. However, please keep in mind that parents still have the power to say no, and are strongly encouraged to exercise that prerogative when warranted.
The second is set a good example. Simply stated, to insist that your child limit their device time, and then spend an inordinate amount of time on your own device, clearly sends mixed messages and makes any enforcement extremely difficult. From this last item are lessons for us to learn as well. Find alternatives to our own disproportionate use of devices. There are many, and among them should be spending more time with each other: engage in real conversations, take walks, go to the park, visit a museum, care for a pet, read together. By doing so, we may find our own balance along with that of our children.
We continue to consider it a privilege to work with your children and value the partnership we have forged in endeavoring to achieve the most positive possible outcomes for them. To reinforce this we encourage you to re-visit the School’s website and find the “Permission and Agreements” section of the Student Handbook. Go to the “Digital Citizenship Agreement”. This document can be read together and offers a positive connection between the desired behavior and respectful approach we expect at school in conjunction with that of the home front.
To further the conversation you are invited to visit the website www.screenagersmovie.com.