Tips for managing technology at home
Special to The Union
Over the last decade, technology has continued to be transformative in our lives, particularly in education.
Students have access to current information for research, digital tools to support their learning needs, and access to devices for learning anywhere they might be.
Tahoe Truckee Unified School District has a very successful 1:1 program and beginning in fifth grade, each student is able to have a device checked out to them. Our students use technology to create multimedia content and demonstrate their learning through projects that include video and music. In addition, computer science applications, coding and programming lessons are offered to our students from elementary through high school.
Since technology is prevalent at the district, we host a number of parent technology workshops to support and inform parents. There are a number of questions which continue to be on the minds of parents, including myself, such as how much “screen time” is too much, at what age should my child have a smartphone, and how a child’s digital footprint can affect them well into their future and working lives.
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While many of these tech questions have no definitive answers, the start of school is a great time to evaluate our digital wellness habits and make sure that we, as parents, can ensure our children are balanced and safe in their use of digital tools.
My son will be starting the eighth grade and we took the “Wait Until 8th” pledge (https://www.waituntil8th.org/) at the start of fifth grade. By waiting until eighth grade to provide a “smartphone” for him, we were able to have conversations about what having a phone would look like, write a screentime contract together, and set and manage expectations. While the introduction of a smartphone this summer has created some challenges, our son is aware of what the use of the phone should look like and it sets the foundation for many conversations we have.
Conversation with your child is an essential component in creating healthy digital habits for your children. As soon as they begin using online email accounts, social media, computers, and smartphones, parents should have continued conversation about what their children are doing online, who they are talking to and how much time is appropriate to spend using digital tools. Begin by asking your child what they think and continue the conversation around any differences of opinion. One place to get a conversation starter is Common Sense Media. CSM offers short video clips and questions that can spark talk over dinner, though remember to put your digital devices away when you are eating!
In addition to regular conversations about digital wellness with your child, here are some strategies for digital management at home:
Consider having a designated central charging area for all family devices (no devices in bedrooms, or in bed at night)
Use the “night light” function built into devices to minimize blue light a few hours before bed.
Evaluate the apps on your devices and the notifications they send. Turn off notifications for apps that are not priorities to minimize distraction throughout the day.
Set specific times for checking social media or apps on your phone, turn off the notifications.
Consider using parental controls on your child’s device(s) that monitor the apps downloaded and time spent within them.
Protect meal times by putting devices away and “power down!”
Use “Digital Wellbeing” on Android or “Screentime” on iOS
Be a model for your children by practicing digital wellness for yourself!
Ed Hilton is director of Technology & Information Services for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
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