Technology and the internet have created countless new opportunities for teaching and learning. Students can now read about virtually any subject from anywhere and connect with people and places around the world. Teachers are harnessing this power to bring curriculum alive, and modify instruction to meet the unique needs of every child.
Digital learning gives students the skills they need to succeed, in school and their chosen careers. And while having a bounty of information at our fingertips has many benefits, it also comes with risks and potential pitfalls.
As we tell kids to look both ways before crossing the street and teach them to practice good behavior, it is just as important to talk to them about being responsible and safe in the increasingly digital world, and show them that the rules of life also apply online.
As we guide the next generation of digital citizens, here are five ways families can help children make smarter decisions online and when using technology:
1. Limit screen time
Be assertive about when your child can use his or her phone or tablet. For instance, if your 8-year-old is using a tablet for playing app games and accessing learning tools for homework, set aside a certain number of hours after school and over the weekend to do this. If you are giving your 15-year-old permission to take a smartphone to school, collect the phone when he or she returns home (and for dinner and bedtime). Establish an “online” and “offline” schedule to create balance between the real world and cyber world.
2. Activate privacy settings
You can enable or install a variety of features, depending on how your child uses their device, such as location tracking, parental control for internet content and mobile usage monitoring apps. This will keep your child safe and protect his or her privacy. It is also important to talk to your child about smart usernames and passwords and what information is and isn’t appropriate to share online.
3. Address health precautions and other risks
Teach your child about the potential risks of overusing smartphones and other digital devices. For teens, it is critical to stress no texting and driving. You also should talk to your kids about not getting caught up in negative conversations that could lead to cyberbullying.
4. Monitor and model your technology use
Review your personal example in teaching your child good digital habits, like not bringing your phone to the dinner table, never driving and texting or turning off all devices and storing them in a common area well before bedtime. Kids follow what adults do, and they benefit greatly when expectations and good digital habits are modeled for them.
5. Make a contract with your child or teen
Find 20 minutes to invest in your family’s online well-being by creating a personalized family plan to guide your technology use. Online resources and apps are available to help you have an open dialogue about online behaviors and agree on healthy limits. You can then create an official family contract to post in your home as a reminder.
It is important that families have open, ongoing conversations about devices and technology use. It will help children build good digital habits and ensure they have the skills they need to be responsible.
Laura Bay, President, National PTA, [email protected]