Parents, teachers, school administrators, and school boards are experiencing the same problems at home and in school – kids are obsessed with electronics. Social media, gaming, endless videos, and binge-watching at home are leading to anxiety, depression, lack of attention, and focus in school.
Schools are experiencing growing safety, mental health, and wellness issues. These alarming trends can be directly linked to the increased use of tech by students … outside of school. Technology is making the job of a parent more difficult and hindering teachers from helping kids develop into caring, responsible, and productive members of society.
The ability for students to be anonymous enables cyberbullying.
And because technology is ever present, kids can never get away.
Some children are obsessed with snap streaks and posting their TikTok and Instagram “highlight reels” on social media. The popular and media culture is teaching our kids that they aren’t thin enough, popular enough, cool enough, or just not enough.
Many are addicted to endless gaming. They are choosing online “friends” over real-life interactions. Our children are becoming more isolated and less responsive and engaged. They have a better relationship with their device than with real-life people.
I am painting with a broad brush and not all kids have a problem with too much recreational tech use, but the ones that do are draining a teacher’s time, energy, attention, and focus away from the ones that don’t. Every child is affected and all lose.
Most parents didn’t grow up with all this technology and we are facing problems never seen before. We don’t have the tools to combat it.
Because of the lack of effective tools, everyone is pushing this problem off to someone else. Schools think it is the parents’ job to fix the problem and parents think it is the schools… both think the tech companies should make it less addictive. The reality is that this is a challenge shared by both parents and schools. Therefore, it is a shared responsibility to solve together.
Conventional answers to this problem run the gamut from digital fasting, moderation, and meditation, and all rely on self-discipline and self-control. A leading Ph.D. suggests kids “build grit and resilience” and “read classic philosophy.” Tell that to a 5th grader that has just been handed a shiny new device that gives them access to EVERYTHING … go read some Plato or Socrates.
So, what is the solution?
What similar problems did we face in the past? Think about smoking and substance abuse. D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is a program that gives kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence. It is a program that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives.
So what kind of education is needed regarding technology?
A program that raises their understanding of technology and its influence, directly impacting their lives. They need to understand that like any drug, there are side effects and unintended consequences. They need to understand that what people post on social media is not reality, but a highlight reel. They need to know that they are being tracked, manipulated, and intentionally hooked – all for the benefit of giant companies. They need to learn that if it is free, they are the product. They need to learn about depression, anxiety…and their root causes of this. They need help to acquire good tech decision-making skills. They need to have peers that are knowledgeable and are of the same mindset.
And above all, they need parents that understand all this too! It is time for parents and schools to step up and work together to help all kids to grapple with and successfully manage the good and bad that technology brings into our lives. Together, we can ensure our kids are safer and happier at home, and at school – now and in the future.
About Kathy Van Benthuysen
Kathy Van Benthuysen is the Director of Curriculum for Converlation™, the exchange of thoughts, ideas, and feelings that build and strengthen relationships. The program does not demonize technology but helps students get back to making real connections and having conversations. School decision-makers seeking more information can visit her website here. Kathy was a teacher for nearly 30 years before retiring to follow another passion-helping people communicate and connect with others, despite the influences of technology distracting us. Using her background in instructional design and having an in-depth understanding of kids, Kathy led the evolution of Converlation from its inception to the present day. Years of testing and refinement based on feedback have resulted in something that engages people on a deeper level. Kathy has a bachelors from Rider University and a postgraduate degree from Purdue University. Kathy thoroughly enjoys the beach with her family, and working out, and is a competitive softball player as well as a coach.