I think we can all admit, there are times when we become glued to something on one of our digital devices. I'm personally guilty when it comes to ancestry research. If I begin, I know I will use every free minute, and probably more!
A study completed in 2013 by the Northwestern Center on Media reported that media related parenting style (ie: how often are you using your digital devices) is linked to child use. I think this is important because if we are asking our children to make changes, then we really need to take a look at ourselves and make a change.
So let's talk a little about self regulation, because this is a crucial life skill. There are many parental control programs for digital devices like "circle", and it's great to hear that many families are implementing these systems for their children. But, there's a missing piece in this picture, and it's teaching the skill of self regulation to our children. We do not want to send our children off to college without the skill of self regulation. If we get back to the idea that you are your child's frontal lobe, then it falls on us as adults to teach this skill, not just expect it to happen.
As many of you know, the teen years are so precarious. There is such a battle for independence, and sometimes just an idea from a parent, can cause a teen to do the opposite. It's important to introduce these ideas at the right time, and in the right way. I like to discuss how self regulation can be challenging for all us, even as adults. Often we will talk about the choices that need to be made, for example if I'm going to go online to do ancestry research then it will be done on an evening where I have nothing planned. I will even go a step more, to make sure there is nothing pressing the following day. We also discuss some of the tools at our disposal. There are many programs out there but I personally like Rescue time and Forest. Rescue time runs in the background of your devices (phone and computer). It tracks time spent on websites and apps. It offers a variety of reports, even detail by the minute. This is a such a good tool to use with students, to show them what it being used and for how long. Students with ADHD/and or Executive Function challenges often are "time blind". Time often passes without them noticing, and often it's not used effectively. I have had students report to me that they may find themselves staring in a mirror, day dreaming, or even not knowing what they were doing. Rescue time offers the ability to see if the device was a distraction. I recently had a a student who reported that he spent about 8 hours doing homework on a Sunday. He immediately admitted that he probably was not working the entire time. We brought up Rescue time, and after looking at the report; we were able to determine that his device was not the distraction. I have another student who is often shocked to see how much time he has spent on Youtube during homework (and it's not homework related).
Forest is one of my favorite apps, and I was so excited to see last week that it now has a safari extension. It allows individuals to stay focused and present in the moment. The idea is to not use your device or your browser. You determine how long you would like to be focused. Once the time is decided, a tree is planted and grows for your predetermined time. If you leave the app and move to another app/tab; the tree dies. The more you use the app ,the more trees are added to your forest, and you can earn coins to add items to your trees. It's a fun way to stay focused.
There are so many conversations to have around digital devices and our children, but let's not forget how to teach them self regulation. It is such a key to their success.