Kids and the Internet: What the teachers taught me

AppleThis morning I did two back-to-back workshop sessions at the Bronfman Jewish Education Centre‘s one-day pedagogical event for teachers at all the Jewish day schools in Montreal. I spoke about applied classroom strategies based on the Digital Citizenship Program in one session, and about teens, technology and risk prevention in the other.

Not too surprisingly, I learned at least as much from the teachers as I was able to share with them. These women and men are on the front lines in the classroom with our kids every day. And there are some things they want parents to know when it comes to students and technology.

Sleep. Kids need more of it. There is only so much teaching they can do when our kids are exhausted. The first period or two of the day are a real challenge for sleep-deprived teens, and parents aren’t always aware of how bad things can get.

Some advice? Make your teen charge their cellphones, laptops and iPads somewhere other than their bedroom. The place they sleep should be a screen-free zone after a certain time. Too many kids put their phones on vibrate so their parents don’t know they are up getting Facebook status updates and text messages way after they should be asleep. Also, suggest that your tweens and teens wind the last 30-60 min of their days down without the Internet. It can be very hard to keep track of time when you are engrossed in Skyping or slaying villains on World of Warcraft.

Screen time. Kids need less of it. Teachers worry that our kids experience so much of life — from socializing with friends to learning about science — in a mediated fashion. They are concerned about the ways it affects their social interaction, about how computers give even good kids just enough physical distance from others to enable mean, petty and hurtful comments they might not otherwise make. They worry that kids aren’t “in the moment” enough, when they want to record every get-together on their smartphones to post on Facebook. They wonder if all this gadget-fuelled stimulation doesn’t rob kids of the boredom that stimulates creativity.

Guidance from parents. Teachers can’t teach our kids how to be good digital citizens on their own. Parents need to model good behaviors themselves (put down that Blackberry at the dinner table!) and supervise their kids activities online. So much of what we need to teach our kids in a digital context is just an extension of the common sense and moderation we apply elsewhere. Just in a different font.


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