Developing Healthy Media Literacy Habits for the Whole Family
Laptops. Cellphones. Social media. Smart boards. YouTube. iPads… today’s kids are constantly connected to and engaged with the world around them at all times. Technology is simply part of how they live, and increasingly, it’s becoming part of how they learn as well.
Today’s classroom looks very different from classrooms a decade or so ago; in many classrooms, students-even the young ones-are using some form of technology in class daily.
Technology in today’s classroom isn’t just changing how students are being taught; it’s changing how they learn.
Some classrooms are experimenting with new models of instruction, blending lecture-style formats with self-guided online learning, as well as integrating social media into the curriculum, encouraging students to interact with each other online, outside of class, and even participate in lectures via online forums.
The Digital Native generation knows how to access any information, at any time. But that doesn’t mean that they understand how to determine the value of what they encounter online. Media literacy is quickly becoming of a very important skill to develop.
Studies have shown that kids aged 8-18 are online up to seven hours a day! Studies have also shown that too much media time can lead to difficulties in the classroom, such as problems with retention and focus. Too much technology can also lead to lack of proper sleep, which has been shown repeatedly to have an impact on grades. Kids need a proper night’s sleep in order to process all the information that they have learned during the day, and to be alert and ready to learn in class.
Just as teachers and schools set the rules as to how much technology is used in class, parents need to set sound boundaries and guidelines about technology use outside of school.
Here are some tips to consider:
Keep the computer in a public space, if possible, and check the computer’s search history frequently.
Go over basic online safety rules such as never using real names, never giving out addresses or phone numbers, sticking to familiar sites, asking before signing up or creating new accounts.
Challenge your kids to think actively about how and why they are using media. Is the laptop used for research for school? Are cell phones mainly to connect with peers? Do they use it in class for anything?
Encourage balance-it’s important to make “unplugged” activities part of the entire family’s daily routine. Set household guidelines around plugged-in time. Use a timer to track how long each person is plugged in to a particular device and set time limits.
Log out before you nod off-some studies show that technology usage before bed can impair sleep. That means logging out and shutting off all gadgets-TVs, laptops, iPads, even video games, etc.
Have kids take note of where information comes from and ask them to analyze the quality of one site or another. Ask, Who created this site? Who wrote it? Can it be verified elsewhere?
Remember that what you do online doesn’t get erased and can be searched by others. So, don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want someone else to read, so always act online as though someone might be watching!
Recognize your distractions. Technology of all kinds can be very distracting when there are offline projects to do. They can be notorious time wasters as well. When logging on to the computer to do research, make sure to avoid social media sites, and log out of any extra pages or tabs.
While we want our kids to always have the best in life-including education- sometimes it requires parents to step back and ask tough questions about where we need to draw the line and what’s best for our children. Technology can be a great gift to give children, but like anything else, it has its place, both in an out of the classroom.
Discussing technology and media, and just generally being aware of its role in our daily lives leads to healthier technology usage for the whole family.
Oxford Learning offers programs for children from 3 years old through university. Our goal is to give students the skills they need to be successful in school and in life. Oxford Learning has locations in Halifax, Hammonds Plains and Bedford. For more information about our programs and services, visit us at www.oxfordlearning.com