Technology is engaging; it is entertaining. Kids want to use it. Instead of banning it in our homes and classrooms, we should figure out ways to cultivate digital citizens, set boundaries, and provide safe experiences.
Though most adults are aware of the significant changes that have occurred since we were young, many parents from Generation X and Y are having a hard time with the pace of life, rapidly evolving technology, and mass communication affecting our Generation Z and Alpha children. Forbes article, The Complete Guide to Generation Alpha, The Children of Millennials, explains that parents of generation Alpha (born since the year 2010) tune out traditional strategies, they pay close attention to their children, and are engaged parents. The Millennial parents make up the only generation that has grown up with smart technology, which could make them less sensitive to the impact that the online world has on our children. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes responsibly educated adults to present the dangers outside the village to our children.
The docking stations serve multiple purposes. It is there for a digital curfew. It is there so that we can check devices. This check is not to be a “gotcha” moment, it is so that we can check texts and social media and give advice on our kids’ digital citizenship skills. When we give our children a device, the world is in their fingertips; the docking station is in a centralized location in the home so that the world is not in our children’s bedrooms. Investing in a station that comes with multiple types of charging cords, to account for the different types of ports, keeps the docking station easier to manage.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that younger children, ages 2 – 5, limit screen time to one hour a day. They discourage any screen time, except for video calls for children younger than 24 months. Typically, older children spend longer amounts of time online; and, as a given rule of thumb, we should still set boundaries for our teens and explain their devices should not distract from responsibilities or face to face communication.
Cultivate Digital Citizens
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has developed a fabulous resource for parents of children of all ages. It contains Into the Cloud by NetSmartzkids, which has published a video series that is a perfect teaching tool for younger kids! There are links to discussions, printable worksheets, and activities to go along with the cartoons.
Be sure to have open communication. Parents, encourage your kids to share if there is something that happens online that gives them a bad feeling. Teachers, cultivate digital citizenship in your classroom. These fabulous posters from Kathleen Morris can be used in 11 separate Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons during class meetings.
Provide Safe, High Quality Experiences
Because there are many apps, videos, and games that are making it incredibly difficult for kids to turn off, we should monitor and give recommendations. Some games are created to give our children false hope of winning every time or feel a connection with the people they are chatting with. Both of which cause a type of obsession for gaming. Set the time limit boundaries and stick with them. Parents.com published, The Best Learning Apps for Kids. The 23 engaging and educational options are kid tested and linked in the article. Messenger for Kids is also a valuable alternative to social distancing, because of the safeguards it provides in approving who our children talk to while they play games together.
In my classroom, students used a blog to submit written responses. This helped cultivate digital citizenship in safe spaces. We practiced appropriately responding to each other’s comments. Without editing, revising, and proofreading, students recognized how easy it was to put things online that they did not intend to say. Because of the blog privacy settings, I was comfortable allowing these mistakes to happen. I conferenced with students who were struggling, and because it was meaningful to them, they became better overall writers. They were instantly “publishing” their work, so the quality mattered to them; they knew others would be impacted by what they were writing. My favorite unit was opinion writing because they grew to respect each other’s postings and would reply by voicing their stance. Students developed meaningful online and in person conversations from reading their peers postings.
Common Sense Media has a “Parents Need to Know” section that defines ages, topics, and guides for many of the popular sites, such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and YouTube. There are links to hundreds of fantastic articles regarding cellphones, screen time, social media, violence, and even provides printable Family Media Agreements. This site explains how our kids are “preparing for life in a new interconnected, global world.” The engaging learning opportunities available for this generation are endless.
What are your kids spending their screen time on?