Living with Laptops: Managing Devices: We know that developing strategies for maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle in technology-rich school is a key priority for many families. We all struggle to manage our many devices, from mobiles, to laptops, to kindles, to iPods, and everything that comes next. During this session we will share ideas and strategies to help your family build and maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle based on current research, experiences here at school and suggestions from families at a variety of international schools.
This session has been developed and will be facilitated by:
Although many of the tools we use to connect and communicate have changed, what we’re doing with them is very similar to more “old school” methods – like passing notes in class, or reading under the covers at night, or talking on the phone.
For some reason, it seems that when children (or adults) are using technology tools, we are reluctant to interrupt them. We have developed a kind of societal norm that “laptop space” must be private space.
Even though we already have great strategies, as parents (and teachers), to help children manage their time and responsibilities well, sometimes it’s challenging to remember to apply those strategies in this new context, because of the perceived privacy norms.
Although the idea of chatting, sharing, and interacting with peer groups is not new, perhaps the greatest difference is the visibility of the activities – which can be perceived in two ways:
- Technology as more visible: In the “old school” context, when children spent time hanging out at places like the mall, their parents might not know really what was happening, and any mistakes made could be forgotten with time. It was almost like those mistakes and behavior were invisible. In contrast, today’s “hang out” space is often online, where every action is visible and permanent.
- Technology as less visible: In the “old school” context, when children hang out and chat at home, their friends are there, so parents can see and hear what they’re doing. However, with technology, children can be “hanging out” in a common space in the house, but parents can’t actually see or hear anything, since it’s all on the computer. In this sense, the technology almost makes the behavior “invisible”.
It’s important to remember that all of the adults in our children’s lives are role models. The behavior they see being modeled as adults is behavior they are implicitly being told is appropriate.
Although it sounds too simple, we see in the classroom that by clearly stating specific expectations and setting clear boundaries, students are much more likely to follow those directions. In contrast, if we allow expectations to be more implicit, it’s so much easier for students to ignore those unstated “understandings”.
In the end, we’re working towards each student developing their own self control, and an appropriate level of balance that works for them and their family. To do so, we would like to work as a team: parents, school and students.
- Set time limit per day for total screen time, and gradually allow the child more control over how they allocate that time.
- Set a specific time, or set of times, when the computer can be used.
- No computer use after a certain time.
- No technology at the dinner table.
- How to Cut Children’s Screen Time? Say No to Yourself First
Developing Time Management:
- daily work schedule planning
- Use a kitchen timer to help students understand how long they’ve been online. Set a reasonable amount of time, and put the computer away afterwards. It only takes a few times with this technique before the amount of time becomes routine.
- Make use of apps that help build time management skills like:
- YIS Student Tech Team Tips
- A great list from UWC
- A great list from AIS, Singapore
- Self Control
- How to Learn Time Management with the Pomodoro Technique
- Pomodoro Techniques with a Mac
- Pomodoro App from iTunes (free)
- Study Buddy App from iTunes (99c)
- Impetus App from Android Store (free)
- Moment (track how you spend your time on your phone)
- Rescue Time (track how you spend your time on your laptop)
Take Advantage of Tech Breaks:
Research shows that knowing you have specific time set aside to check social networking sites actually helps students focus better, so Dr. Larry Rosen recommends 25 minutes of homework time, then 5 minutes of a tech break, then study again.
- Could Checking Facebook in Class Help Students Focus?
- How a Tech Break Can Help Students Focus
- The Amazing Power of “Tech Breaks“
- sign a contract between parents and children with clear and agreed consequences for breaking the agreement
- laptops only in family areas, no bedrooms
- encourage the child to meet their friends in person
- encourage social time in family on a fixed schedule
- Ditch the Rules: How to Create an Essential Agreement with Children (written by Tosca, shared with permission)
- Family Essential Agreement for Tech Use (created by Tosca, shared with permission)
- Common Sense Media: Family Agreement
- Example Contract from a YIS family
- Amended Contract (updated March 2012)
- Make room for #realtime (PSAs from Common Sense Media)
- regular monitoring of comments made/received
- checking the history regularly
Regular and open conversations with your child are always the best way to make these strategies successful.
Some further resources:
- Common Sense Media: 5 Ways to Help Kids Find Balance
- Common Sense Media: Setting Computer Limits
- Common Sense Media: Managing Multi-tasking
- NISTtech (created by Tosca, used with permission)
- NIST Technology Philosophy
- EdTech Framework for Schools – NIST Empowered Use Agreement (created by Tosca, used with permission)
Even more resources, regularly updated: