Supporting Healthy Social Media Habits

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This past Saturday at our third annual Parent University, I was fortunate to lead a short session on how parents can help support their kids in the development of healthy social media habits.  During the session, I shared some of the ways I have monitored my 12-year old daughter’s use of her newly acquired iPhone and her subsequent use of various apps and social media tools.

In regards to the monitoring of apps on my daughter’s phone, I love the way Family sharing on iTunes allows parents to approve the addition of apps to their child’s phone. This allows me to have a conversation with my daughter before allowing her to add new apps and ask the following:

  • Why do you want that app?
  • What will you use it for?
  • Will that app make your life easier in some way?
  • How much time do you think you will spend on that app each day?

One example of an app that we decided did not need to be added was Lipsi. When I got the request to add Lipsi, I immediately asked my daughter why she needed it. She informed me that it was an app that many of her friends had that allowed them to comment on Instagram posts.  I have to admit I was confused here because my daughter has a private Instagram account and she is only allowed to follow friends from school and pre-approved celebrities. Therefore, I am not sure why another app would be needed to comment.

Common Sense Media is a great resource for parents

In order to shed some light on this, I turned to Common Sense Media which is a goldmine of information on apps, websites, movies and books.  All you have to do is enter the title of the media source that you want more information on in the search bar and Common Sense Media will provide a review and rating. In the case of Lipsi, here is what I found:

“Buggy, anonymous app invites misuse, bullying.”

In addition, Lipsi is recommended for ages 18-plus.  Also, why would someone need an app that posts anonymous messages on Instagram? I told my daughter that if she had something to say about a friend’s post on Instagram that it should be public and the same should go for her friends commenting on her posts. There are enough stories about teens bullying one another on Instagram out there without this type of app.

Keeping a handle on screen-time is something we all need to do

Finally, we spent some time talking about the need for all of us to be mindful of the time we spend on screens.  While this is a neverending topic for me, one thing that opened my eyes was the Infomagical Bootcamp put out by the Note to Self podcast back in 2016.  One of the things I have done since my Infomagical experience is turn off all of my notifications on my phone and organized all of my apps. I encourage anyone interested in improving the balance in their lives in regards to technology-use to give the Infomagical Bootcamp a shot.

At the very least, you should check out your app usage on your iPhone or iPad and look at how much time you spend on particular apps daily and weekly.  There are also ways to do this for android users.   The latest iOS updates for Apple also include options for parents to set app and screen-time limits for their children.

It’s a new world for parents who grew up without the rapidly-increasing list interconnected tools and resources that are available.  It is important that we have an ongoing dialogue within our communities in order to ensure a healthy balance for ourselves and our kids.

Here’s a Google Doc with everything I discussed in my Parent University 2018 session.

 

 

Some Thoughts on Balance

Listening to an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast recently, Tim talked the fact that he schedules a trip with his siblings and parents once a year to ensure that there is quality time each year that he can count on with them.  This made me think of my life with a couple of kids in college and another on the way next year.  While it is certainly joyful to have kids head off to the next phase of their lives, these events also bring the bittersweet realization that the majority of our time together has come to an end. 

The podcast led me to a blog post titled The Tail End by Tim Urban on his blog Wait But Why

The line that stuck out to me was the following one from Urban’s post:

“It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.”

The image below from the post also puts things in perspective in regards to the percentage of time we have with our children during their lifetime. 

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As we are early on in a New Year, a point where many people try to look at their routines and behaviors in order to have a more meaningful 2018 and beyond, I think it is a good time to consider this. I struggle to think of situations that should take precedence over meaningful time with family.  So as you tweak your routines and priorities, I hope that you are able to consistently keep time with your loved ones at the top of your list.

 

 

 

Should We Ban Technology In Classrooms and Meetings?

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Last Tuesday’s New York Times had an article on the downside of taking notes on a laptop.  The piece, Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meetingwas written by University of Michigan Professor Susan Dynarski who bans electronic devices in her classroom.  Dynarski cites research from Princeton, UCLA and a few other schools where students who were allowed to take notes electronically performed worse than students who took notes with a pen and paper.

A follow-up post on The Verge yesterday gave a great summary of the article. I especially liked the conclusion:

Writing things by hand is becoming less common as gadgets and speech recognition software continue to replace pen and paper, but it’s long proven that handwriting improves motor skills, memory, and creativity. So even though note taking with a laptop might be faster, you might want to think about how much information you’re retaining.

My final thoughts on this center around the idea that we need to take away the opportunity for the individual to make the choice on which method works best.  As students get to the later stages of high school and move on to college, shouldn’t they have the chance to choose the tool that works best for them?  If people become aware that their productivity drops when they take notes on a device, will they still choose to work in the same manner? Isn’t the process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t a critical part of the learning process?

I can’t help thinking about the Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  This framework includes “students’ self-evaluation and reflection on process and product integrated into the learning process and contributing to students’ continued growth.”

In short, we need to be careful that banning is not our default reaction. We will teach students a great deal if we help them be more introspective about what works best for them.

 

Technology Addiction, It’s Not Just For Kids

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We saw another round of alarming headlines last week decreeing the downfall of our current crop of teenagers due to their addiction to mobile technology. These headlines were prompted by a new report from Common Sense Media about technology addiction and teenagers.  The report,  Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy and Finding Balance, was all over the news with countless headlines like Smartphone Addiction Rampant and Half of All Teenagers Are Addicted to Their Smartphones. While the headlines are accurate, they do not tell the entire story.
These negative headlines are great if they are click-bait intended to get adults reading beyond the bad news and raise awareness about how we can constructively deal with concerns about technology-use and teens. Unfortunately, the general theme coming from the media reports over the past few years has been to sound alarms and not to focus on a more modern perspective and all of the possibilities that go along with it. Thankfully, Common Sense Media provides a balanced approach to this conversation in the report.
However, schools also need to step forward and be part of the movement to let families know that all screen time is not created equal. As school leaders strive to add more instructional technology resources to their classrooms, they also must ensure that parents are kept in the loop about what their students are doing with digital devices to support their learning. We must be clear that our goal is to choose the best instructional resources that fit the needs of the learner at a given moment. Sometimes the right choice may be a digital resource and sometimes it will not. More importantly, we need to talk about when and why certain digital resources are appropriate. We also need to encourage adults to do the same thing regarding the choices they make surrounding the use of technology for their children and themselves.

Despite the fact that it did not make the headlines, a quick look below at some of the research from the Common Sense Media study shows that the problems surrounding the constructive use of technology are just as significant for parents as they are for students. Then again, these stories are being written by adults. I wonder if the headlines would be different if thet were written in a student publication…
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The bottom line is the following statement from the report:

“Embracing a balanced approach to media and technology, and supporting adult role-modeling, is recommended to prevent problematic media use.”

For school leaders, this starts with us. Let’s foster open and honest conversations about the struggles everyone in our school community is having keeping technology in its proper place.  Let’s share strategies that are working for families who are finding success staying connected to the world both digitally and in-person. It is clear that there is a role for us in this conversation if we are willing to take it.  So let’s look at the conclusion of the report and commit to discussing the following two recommendations as a starting point:
  • Talk About It –  Connect with your kids and support learning by talking about what they’re seeing, reading, and playing. Encourage kids to question and consider media messages to better understand the role media plays in their own lives. 
  • Walk the Walk –  Lead by example by putting your own devices away while driving, at mealtimes, and during family time. Parent role-modeling shows kids the behavior and values you want in your home. Kids will be more open and willing participants when the house rules apply to you, too.