The digital world plays an important role in the lives of our middle schoolers, but do they know how to balance the pull of technology with the other interests and responsibilities of their daily lives? This is the question we worked to answer this week during our schoolwide Common Sense Media digital citizenship lesson. Students had a chance to reflect on tech habits that are tipping the scales and leaving them off balance. They worked together to come up with a plan to improve their digital habits and create more balance in their daily lives.
For example, many kids expressed how easy it is to start playing video games as soon as they get home from school, and they often don’t have time to do homework, chores, or hobbies because it was hard to stop gaming. After some discussion and problem solving, they decided they could work on developing the habit of completing their responsibilities before they turn on the games. This is a great solution and may need some parent intervention to be put into action.
We also learned about how the amount of time we spend on certain types of technology can negatively affect our moods and sleeping habits. Students discussed how they feel pressure to stay connected all the time, or they go to bed at a reasonable time but stay up late (alarmingly late) watching youtube or scrolling social media. Students then considered options like turning off notifications, scheduling time to unplug, setting restrictions, or leaving their phones in another room to charge at night.
8th graders learned how to tell the difference between digital media that has an addictive design compared to a humane design. This may have been the most insightful lesson of them all. Humane designs have “features or aspects of the device or app that prioritize what is good for people’s lives” compared to addictive designs that are “intended to hook the user into frequent use.” Students were surprised to find out that some of their favorite features such as notifications, tags, autoplay and so many more were all deliberately designed to create addiction. No wonder it is so hard to pull away from the media world and balance the tech in our lives. The good news is, they are not empowered with tools to help them overcome the addictive components.
For more resources on how to help your tweens and teens navigate the digital world, check out Common Sense Media’s Parent’s Page.