Sunday, April 14, 2019
By Emma Martin LaPlant

Technology permeates every aspect of our children and teens’ lives, from tech-based learning
tools to smartphones to video games to social media. The up-and-coming generation interacts
with technology far more than any of their predecessors, and they truly are on the edge of the
new frontier of tech. While the advancement of technology creates incredible opportunities, our
young people need us for support, to set boundaries, and to help them become responsible
consumers and users of technology.

Teaching Digital Health

Our children and students need us to teach them how to be responsible consumers of
technology. As their brains are continuing to grow and mature, students are not physically
capable of setting and maintaining their own boundaries and limits. They need ongoing support
from the adults in their lives to create, model, and enforce these limits.

Too much technology use can lead to loneliness, sadness, and worry. Work with your child to
establish rules and boundaries around tech use that apply to everyone — including yourself. Try
establishing no-phone times, balancing tech times with non-tech activities, taking tech out of the
bedroom, and taking a tech-free day.

Just as we teach young people how to be polite face-to-face, we need to teach them how to
interact kindly with others online. Explain how sarcasm can be misinterpreted online, model how
to not respond to every message immediately, and remind them that every online encounter can
be recorded.

No matter how mature your child is, they are not immune to making decisions that may put them
in a risky situation. Create and reinforce rules about sharing information, downloading content,
protecting passwords, posting and sharing photos, talking to or friending people you don’t know,
purchasing things online, and other online interactions.

How Much Is “Too Much”?

Parents, caregivers, and teachers often struggle to know how much screen time is “too much.”
Some activities are developmentally integral to children and teenagers; if screen time is getting
in the way of these, it’s probably time to establish better limits. For example, if screen time is
interfering with seeing friends and interacting with them in real life, participating in
extracurricular activities, keeping up with academic classes and doing homework, building
positive relationships with family members, or getting enough sleep, then that could be “too

Every family sets its own rules around screen time. For some, it might be none on weeknights
and one- to two-hour periods on the weekends. For others, allowing a half-hour each weeknight
when homework is finished might be appropriate. Consider your own family’s activities and
rhythms to determine the tech rules that work for you.

As Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets and
mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is
not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all.”

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