It is tempting to simply jump headfirst into all the aspects of how technology has been shown to negatively affect children (and adults alike), both physically and mentally. In the Huffington Post article Sneaky Ways Technology is Messing with Your Mind they offer quite a few reasons why overdoing it with technology can lead to negative affects on your body (spine, ‘text claw,’ blemishes, lowered sperm count, etc.) and mind (anxiety and stress, sleep disruption, rewired brains and impulse control).
Hearing these issues laid out can send one into a panic and it’s tempting to blindly believe such a rap sheet, without taking the time to think through the fact that the majority of these issues occurring have a direct correlation with the overuse of technology. All of these issues, as well as obesity and societal withdrawl are occuring because people are choosing (or are addicted) to spend vast hours in front of screens, both for work and leisure activities. Having the opportunity, not only to hear the consequences of their actions, but more importantly to recognize healthy ways in which to find a balance between screen time and other interpersonal and physical pursuits will be important to help reduce issues surrounding the (over)use of tech.
This brings us to the issue around who is going to do it though. This came up in the chat during the debate, and it seemed somewhat clear that most teachers don’t feel that this is something they necessarily feel they should be tasked with doing. While I agree that teachers already have a plate near to overflowing, this is still something that requires attention in the classroom. Teaching and modeling proper use of technology is of the utmost importance, as we have seen eariler, for ensuring the technology being used for learning is actually beneficial and not another distraction. Giving students the opportunity to practice positive use of technology in the classroom is the first step towards positive habbits that they can carry on into their future lives.
Not to say that this will necessarily help them to stop jumping onto the computer or PS4 right after they come home from school. It is here where we need to recognize that parents/guardians also shoulder a big part of the responsibility when it comes to modeling, and monitoring their children’s screen usage. The issue is, many parents are either still unaware of the repurcussions the excessive screen time is having on their children (and most likely themselves), or can’t commit to being around their children due to having to work excessive hours, etc.
Here is where we as teachers can assist in helping plant the seed to make the parents aware of how they might better support their children’s online use. Last fall, in ECI832, I created a website that would assist schools, teachers, and parents in implementing a positive digital citizenship focus in schools and at home. Looking specifically at parents, I created a number of resources parents could use towards being more mindful of their families’ use of tech, and different methods of ensuring children were making the right choices when heading online.
Technology then, if used appropriately, doesn’t correlate to negative physical, mental, and social problems, but rather offers a myriad of different ways to become more in tune with making positive changes to mind, body, and social activities.
Physically, with the ability to track steps using a Fitbit, or tracking Km’s using an iPhone’s GPS on the Nike running app, we can effortlessly log our movement, and share it with friends as a means of motivation. Since acquiring a Fitbit a month ago, I have really made a conscious effort to exercise much more regularly, not only for the positive stimulation that comes from comparing old progress to current, but also to be able to keep up with friends who I am competing against through the Fitbit app. When it’s raining and windy, normally I’d just find an indoor activity and veg out, but with the Fitbit, I’m getting out there regardless.
Some naysayers say that this obsessiveness is actually unhealthy, but honestly to me, if this tool can motivate me to push myself harder, than it’s worth the 10 extra times I check my phone to see where I am on the leaderboard. We all need different means of motivating ourselves, and for me this is it.
Socially, technology offers a lot pitfalls, all of which can be curbed with a better understanding of how to be a good digital citizen. I’ve also created a variety of lessons (and a lot of links to better sites :)) that address these issues here. Bonnie Stewart also weighed in on this last year when I lucked out on her lecturing during ECI831. She reminded us that the benefits of social networking outweigh any negatives, especially when armed with an understanding of how to properly navigate such spaces.
So, long and short of it is, were students to have a good understanding of digital citizenship, taught to them and supported by teachers and parents/guardians, the majority of health issues students might encounter as a result of using technology is mitigated. So, let the next Facebook post or local tv spot on the perils of technology remind you that as teachers we have a responsibility to ensure our children are prepared for their future, which includes prepping them in responsible use of technology.