Getting Students to Use Technology Purposefully
The recent data is startling: a quarter of teens say that they are online almost constantly, and teens spend about nine hours per day online. There are legitimate concerns that too much screen time will damage children’s brains. There are also concerns about bullying, security, and other ills associated with social media. So there is a great need to get students to use technology purposefully. Here are several ways to make that happen:
First, adults can model good digital hygiene. This means that they put their phones away in social situations and resist the urge to check their phones constantly. Adult examples still matter, and parents and teachers are in a position to help students develop more purposeful technology use by modeling good habits. It’s much easier to teach a child how to engage in a face-to-face conversation or enjoy a non-digital hobby if the child has a good role model for these activities.
Second, adults can critique digital culture. For example, when the conversation turns to the latest tempest over silly online comments, adults can point out that the bizarre opinions of a few random people should not be international news. They can help students understand that every click of the latest outrageous headline is making money for someone, at the expense of the outrage and exasperation of everyone. Understanding this dynamic can help students use digital tools more purposefully.
Third, adults can help students discover passions in the real world. Whether it is woodworking or hiking or sculpting, students may not be aware of the non-digital activities that might please them if the adults in their lives haven’t given them opportunities to explore these experiences.
Fourth, adults can talk openly about how to manage technology use. One system that some families have found helpful is to think about tech use as falling into one of three categories: consuming, learning, and creating. This system can help students focus on limiting consumption while still enjoying the benefits of learning and creating that can be found through digital tools. This isn’t the only way to think about technology use, but it is one metric for assessing online behavior.
Fifth, adults can teach students about mindfulness. Technology can encourage a form of passive participation in the endless stream of digital media, but lessons in mindfulness can help everyone exercise more control over their technology use.
It certainly is no easy challenge to buck cultural convention and limit time spent using technology. But the benefits to doing so are enormous, and a few basic practices can help students use technology more mindfully.