Monday, February 26, 2018

K-12 School Years: The Opportune Time to Learn Digital Balance

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When speaking with parents I have often emphasized the need for kids to learn to use technology and manage distractions during their K-12 years before they leave home as independent adults. The alternative--holding back the use of technology without parents and teachers present as guides and mentors--ultimately will hurt youth and ill prepare them for their future. I know that for some, banning the use of technology that could be a source of distraction so you don't have to deal with it seems like an easier option up front. However, the effects of doing so are worse in the long term. Basically you are robbing the student of years of experience and opportunity to practice how to use technology and balance its role in their lives.

I have read news stories of college students who spend their time on social media during class because they don’t know how to balance and focus their time and attention. Prevented from using it in their K-12 years, either through bans or lack of access, they head out into the "real world" on their own unexperienced and unprepared for managing their time, distraction, entertainment and personal use of technology in the workplace or higher education. Recently a colleague with a college aged daughter relayed a story about her classmates watching Netflix during lectures. His daughter realized that these students are literally paying hundreds of dollars per class to sit and watch Netflix episodes.

For today’s students as well as adults, this also means balancing distractions that come with access to technology available on pretty much any device used. The lines between use of technology for work and play for adults, or school and play for kids are ever more blurred. Texting, Snapchat, Instagram, video games, and more can be seen simultaneously while trying to focus on work or school. Learning to balance this is essential for success as an adult, but necessary to learn well before then.

Recently when speaking with a parent he mentioned that learning this balance should all come before high school, since high school is the time where grades are official and count on a student's transcript. As early as freshman year, grades can determine one’s future opportunities. Grades prior to that for the most part don’t really have such an effect, so it is a better time to make mistakes that might result in a poor grade. With this in mind, the elementary and middle school years are therefore the opportune times to work on mastering the skills needed to focus on tasks and set aside disruptions to have them in place for high school and beyond. I’d rather have my own children learn this as they are forming their study habits and learning to manage their smartphone and technology access with adult guidance than graduate without these important skills.

In the past I’ve written about the benefits of a gradual release for kids when it comes to using technology. Learn more about the best time to get a smartphone, when to start social media, help kids prevent FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), prevent distractions, be a digital mentor and more below: 

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