The next time you go to a restaurant, look around: what percentage of the tables have people playing on their phones?
Count the amount of emails that arrive in your work inbox between 5PM and 8AM the next morning.
Think about how much time you spend every night scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest.
What do you do while you're waiting in the grocery store line or while you wait to pick up your student or...?
Students see the adults in their lives on their phones and computers a lot. And that's because we are. But it's often hard for them to know what's work, what's play, and what's just mindless scrolling.
As parents (or as any adult in a student's life), we can set a powerful example of what it's like to have boundaries in technology. Here are a few things I recommend:
- Silence your phone (and it's notifications) for a part of every day. It's easy to stop what you're doing (even stop mid-sentence) when you hear your phone ding. But if you're kids are home and you know they're safe, take some time every night turn the dings (and vibrations) off and be with one another. I've often had students tell me they'd love to just play a game with their family at night. Play a game, do a puzzle, bake some cookies, be present with one another.
- No tech at the dinner table. Show students that you can ignore your phone or your email in favor of being present. Engage in conversation with your student(s). They'll often act like they'd much rather play on their phone, but they deeply desire to be known and loved by you.
- Be aware and transparent of what you're doing online. Are we addicted to social media? Are we being productive users of technology? As much as possible, try to model and be transparent with your students about what you're doing online. Are you learning? Are you working? Use your example to help students realize the different levels of productivity and purpose with a device. (Make sure to see tomorrow's post for students on how using time wisely!)
- Set a sabbath. Are you always connected to work? Do you feel the constant need to log on and check if there's anything new? I hate this part of our culture. One of the most impactful things I've done in the past five years is to establish a sabbath. On Sundays, I don't check work emails and don't think about or do any work. It's a rule. I hope the same thing for my students and their families. I fear that we make Sundays miserable as students wait until the last possible moment to finish their homework. Declare Sunday a family sabbath, free of work (and homework). Do your work earlier in the weekend and establish Sundays as a time to be together. Consider even declaring it a device-free day.
I like this spoken word poem from a few years ago:
Parents, your students are watching you, even when you don't realize it. Please be a positive example for them about how to be a positive digital citizen with healthy boundaries. Talk about the choices that you're making do establish these healthy boundaries. Share them with your students and with other parents. We're in this together.