As a parent I get nervous at this time of the year, thinking about how much time my sons will spend in front of a screen over the long summer holiday break.

Although they have many other interests and we keep an eye on their usage, it is really hard for us parents to control just how many hours our kids spend staring at a computer or phone screen and to understand what value it is bringing to their lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that technology is evil as it helps our kids stay connected, enables them to access incredible knowledge, learn at their own pace while collaborating with others and to develop an understanding of global issues and empathy for people throughout the world.

I have come across many useful and inspiring resources that I thought I would share with you that might help you manage media balance and negotiate expectations over the holidays.

A blog by Becky Farrin and Melody Bergman on the educateempower.org site states

“We may not know exactly where we are in this tech-based society we live in, but we know technology is here to stay, and we know the forecast calls for more of it in our lives. Currently there are many arguments about the negative effects of technology on our children. However, we have the power to change this and inspire our kids to use technology for good.”

Their article outlines  Ten Ways Kids Can Use Technology For Good and has some very positive tips.

At our house, our phones go to bed when we do but not in our bedrooms. I also encourage my children to look at the screen time report on their phones and think about what they could have done with those hours other than watching YouTube. I’m not sure if it has changed their behaviour but I know it has changed mine. I no longer say that I don’t have time to exercise!

Here are some other tips that we can all do.

  1. Model Use: when kids are around, use devices like how you want them to use them
  2. Start early: set screen limit from a young age
  3. Minimise distractions: shut down devices during family time
  4. Use together: use devices together as a family and discuss about internet safety.

Source: Common Sense Media

What teachers can do?

Most students now use a device in the classroom and schools have BYODD policies and training.

BYOD programmes help students to be prepared for the high-tech world in which we live in. Most schools now educate students in the responsible use of technology and how to be responsible digital citizens

Digital citizens think critically about what they see online, understand the benefits and risks of sharing information, and balance screen time with other activities. But digital citizens aren’t born—they’re taught by teachers & parents like you!

The following link is to a wonderful US site called Common Sense It is free to sign up and contains digital citizenship lesson plans and resources to engage student from kindergarten through to senior students.

Lessons cover media balance & well-being, privacy & security, digital footprint & identity, relationships & communication, cyberbullying, digital drama & hate speech and news, media & literacy.

The following screen shot is an example of a lesson plan for year 10 students on Countering Hate Speech online.

https://www.commonsense.org/digital-citizenship-week. Common Sense is a US leading non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Healthy Screen Time

There are also many fantastic apps to help our kids stay well both physically and mentally. The Healthy Kids site reviewed some top apps and put them to the Healthy Kids road test.

One of the apps reviewed is a Stop, Breath & Think App. A free tool to guide people of all ages and backgrounds through meditations for mindfulness and compassion. This app is very easy to use, and I like the quick meditations of around five minutes to get you back to earth feeling calm, cool and collected.

The complete list can be found at https://healthy-kids.com.au/kids/high-school-2/apps-for-wellbeing/

Another fantastic technology, Bio-Dash is discussed by Professor Dianne Vella-Brodrick of University of Melbourne in her post How Technology Is Boosting Our Young People’s Wellbeing.

The post is in full at the following link but in summary explores how at least one in five young people experience anxiety and depression, often related to school and how the new Bio-Dash program uses technology to help teach students to manage their own wellbeing.

The programme gamifies wellbeing tasks and is carefully designed to include experiential tasks and challenges that are youth friendly.

https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/how-technology-is-boosting-our-young-people-s-wellbeing

Family Screen Time

Family time is important & screens can bring us together. Perhaps you & the kids will have time to watch a movie during the summer holidays or even recommend a movie for your teen to watch without their annoying parents!

Once again, the Common Sense site has reviewed and curated  movies that are currently at the cinema through to the best family movies ever. You can sort according to age, genre, topics and even the character strengths. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews

**Just remember that you may need to become a member to access some of this information.

I particularly like the category – Movies That Inspire Kids to Change the World.

Inspiration comes from a variety of sources, but movies can be particularly powerful for kids and teens. Whether it’s the environmental message of FernGully that gets young kids thinking about the Earth differently or a documentary like Food, Inc. that inspires kids to change their eating habits, the movies in this list can spur action. Many of these films have a specific aim to persuade viewers to think a certain way, so parents can help kids understand different sides of the issues as a means of keeping kids media savvy.

I hope this information has been of help and wish you a happy and safe holiday season!

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