Promoting Healthy Technology Use for Youth
By: Jessica Bickford
As kids across the region head back to school, the role of and attention they give to their electronic devices often increases. As parents and educators, this often leaves us struggling to monitor and keep up, wondering,
- What types of apps are being used?
- How much time is ok?
- How do we monitor it?
- Does technology impact sleep and learning?
- Technology can be a great tool… how do we balance heathy use?
- What’s FOMO and Finstagram?
- Will technology impact learning?
- Can technology increase substance abuse?
- Will technology impact mental health and emotional development?
- And more…
In this post I’d like to share a few highlights from Michael Nerney’s* May 2019 presentation, “Don’t Hit Send: The Impact of Social Media on Brain Development,” that will help to answer some of parents’ questions and take a deeper look about how we engage with our youth around technology. These presentations were hosted by Healthy Lamoille Valley at Green Mountain Technology and Career Center and Craftsbury Academy.
If you would like to watch the presentation, I have included a GMATV link at the end of this post. Plan an hour and a half or break it up in chunks; there is valuable information throughout!
Why are devices attractive?
“We know that they (youth) are not addicted to their device or they’d never get a new device, but they upgrade their devices all the time… it is clear, through the research…that they are emotionally dependent upon the immediacy of the connection to their peers and others.”
– Michael Nerney
Michael explored why the youth brain becomes wired to social media. In short, “Likes” create the chemical dopamine, a positive reward in the adolescent brain. At a certain point, the brain reaches a saturation threshold and it begins to require more activity to get the same “positive” dopamine reward feelings.
Plus, youth are impacted by their peers. Technology provides the opportunity for immediate peer feedback.
Youth need risk for positive development, and they perceive technology as an area of “safe” risk.
Practical tips for monitoring youth technology usage:
1. Delay accounts/technology. Wait until your child is developmentally ready before introducing new technology.
2. When preparing to give your child a phone or electronic device, create a contract for legitimate and valid purposes of having the device. Don’t just give phone over and say, “I hope nothing bad happens…” When you are 13, you don’t get to erase what you see. This website shares helpful examples. http://www.theonlinemom.com/
3. Set expectations that parents have all passwords and that students do not share this information with others, no matter how close the friendship/relationship may seem. (“Don’t fall for the ‘If you love me, you’ll show me by sharing your password’ trap”.)
4. Monitor, monitor, monitor. Set phones, devices, and accounts up so they can be monitored or shut off remotely.
5. Check in often about social media use. Look at the phones with your kids. “Show me what this app does.” Talk about manipulation techniques used online.
6. Keep devices out of bedrooms and place a charging station in a family area, where devices go at a set time in the evening. Sleep is crucial and the light from the screen impacts melatonin production. Sleep cleans our brains and gets us ready for learning new information the next day. Kids who text after 10 o’clock are often getting 5-6 hours of sleep vs. the 9 hours they need. They are missing at least one whole complete cycle of sleep.
7. Know the abbreviations. (For example, ASL = Age, Sex, Location.) Here’s a list: https://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp.
8. Limit time on devices. The more they play with or use technology, the more likely it is to impact sleep patterns, learning, and mental health. Research shows having a phone next to you can turn 2.5 hours of homework into a 5.5 hour project; it can take 7-9 minutes to reflect, respond, and refocus after each text.
9. Model positive device and technology use. As parents and caregivers, we set the tone and expectations by what we do.
10. Remember, not everything needs to be digitized. The act of physically writing increases memory and academic performance.
These tips are not limited to phones. Here are additional areas of digital dependence that can produce measurable changes:
- Online gaming.
- Digital pornography is changing lives and relationships.
- Online gambling.
- Phantom Vibration Syndrome.
We’d love to hear from you! What has worked well in your home? Are there ideas that you’d like to try?
Here is a link to watch Michael’s complete presentation. (Start at about 3 minutes in.)
Here is a link to view Michael’s PowerPoint presentation:https://www.healthylamoillevalley.org/wp-content/uploads/DON%E2%80%99T-HIT-SEND-Presention-Michael-Nerney.pdf
The book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Life of Girls by Nancy Jo Sales explores the impacts of sexting.
The Online Mom website provides knowledge, advice, and tools to help “parents protect their kids and encourage responsible behavior as they make the most of the new digital world.” http://www.theonlinemom.com/
* Michael Nerney is a consultant in Substance Abuse Prevention and Education, with over twenty-six years’ experience in the field. He is the former Director of the Training Institute of Narcotic and Drug Research, Inc. Previous to the Director position, Mr. Nerney held a position as a training specialist for NDRI. His particular areas of expertise include Psychopharmacology, Adolescent Chemical Dependency, and Managing Violent Incidents.
Jessica Bickford works as a Coordinator of Healthy Lamoille Valley, where she has enjoyed writing for their blog. Writing for Copley’s community blog is a natural extension of this experience! Healthy Lamoille Valley focuses on making healthy choices easy choices, realizing that when we have access to healthy options we are less likely to choose behaviors that are harmful. Prevention is really a lifestyle of wise choices that enable us to live life to the fullest.