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Digital Health and Wellness

Maintaining a Healthy Balance with Technology

Whether you work directly with students or you have children/grandchildren, we all interact with technology that is changing how we learn and communicate on a daily basis. We play an important role in helping students learn to manage their own use of technology independently and appropriately as we learn to do this ourselves. Digital Health and Wellness is an important discussion to revisit frequently with children from elementary school through high school.

Monitor and Limit Entertainment Screen Time
Experts suggest having teens surf the Internet in a central place at home, such as the kitchen or family room, rather than away from adult supervision or behind a closed door. Know what your child is doing with technology and how his or her time is being spent. Technology can be a great tool and resource, but also has the potential to be a big distraction. Help your child learn to focus on completing tasks or assignments first before spending time on games, shopping and social networking. Teaching today’s children how to manage multiple sources of information and potential distractions is a critical life skill, one best learned before heading off to college or the workplace.

Set Expectations and Make an Agreement
Regularly share your expectations with your student about accessing only appropriate sites and content, as well as being a good person when online (even when parents aren't watching). Outside of school, it is likely that your student has already been confronted with multiple opportunities to access content that parents wouldn’t approve of, such as pornography, hate sites, celebrity gossip, reality tv, personal blogs, and more, all of which may influence your student's beliefs, values and behavior. Understand that your student's use of many technologies (such as Chromebooks, video game systems, and cell phones) likely gives your student the ability to connect to unfiltered public wireless networks (such as in a library or coffee shop, by picking up a neighbor’s wireless signal, or connecting to the Internet through a cell service). Therefore, it is important to maintain a regular, open dialogue about Internet use and access. Discuss your expectation for appropriate use and behavior.

The Common Sense Family Media Agreement is a checklist that parents can use to guide conversations with their kids about media use. It’s designed to help parents establish guidelines and expectations around media use and behavior that are right for their family. Some families are comfortable using it as a signed agreement. Others refer to it simply as a checklist to guide conversations. Either way, it’s a great way to help parents and kids get on the same page about media and technology use.

Keep Tech Out of the Bedroom at Night
Parenting experts suggest parking all technology devices, from cell phones to Chromebooks, in a common spot overnight to discourage late night, unmonitored use and sleep disruption. Don’t allow your child to sleep in a room with a Chromebook, laptop or cell phone. Remember to model appropriate use and balance of technology in your own life, too!

Other Parenting Tips

  • Maintain open communication with your child about technology use, regularly asking your child about his or her computer activities.
  • Follow the suggested age minimums for social media. Most tools like Instagram and Snapchat don't allow children under age 13 to join.
  • Ask to get a tour of the sites your child visits.
  • Proactively set guidelines for computer use at your house, as well as when they are with friends. Print off, discuss, and sign a Common Sense Family Media Agreement.
  • Google family members to be aware of your cyber footprint online. Set up a Google Alert for each family member for free.
  • Anything we do or post online creates a digital record, often called your "Digital Footprint." Nothing online is totally private, even if you intend it to be. Once digitized, it can be saved, sent and reposted elsewhere.
  • A good rule of thumb: If you don’t want a parent, teacher, principal, future employer or college admissions office to know something, don’t post it online. Ask yourself, "Would Grandma approve?"
  • "Friends" aren’t always who they say they are; undercover police and pedophiles pretend to be kids online. Encourage your child to only be friends online with individuals they have met in person.
  • Be cautious when posting personal information online. This includes full name, address, phone number, email, cell phone, checking in on social media sites, where you are meeting friends, or where you hang out. Discuss how easy it is for someone to find you based on what you post online.
  • Regularly check privacy settings on all commonly used sites and networks. Ignoring privacy settings on sites like Instagram and Facebook means your photos, contact information, interests, and possibly even cell phone number and GPS location could be shared publicly.
  • Cyberbullying (threatening or harassing another individual through technology), is a growing concern for today’s youth. It takes many forms, such as forwarding a private email, photo, or text message for others to see, starting a rumor, or sending a threatening or aggressive message, often anonymously. Talk with your child about not partaking in this behavior, and encourage her/him to report it to an adult.


Available Tools to Help Families Create Healthy Digital Habits

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