Digital education: how to use technology for good.

May 3, 2024

In the digital age in which we live, technology plays a vital role in the lives of all of us, including children. Smartphones, tablets, computers, and game consoles accompany them from an early age, providing opportunities for learning, entertainment, and socialization. However, excessive use of these devices can lead to digital addiction, with negative consequences on their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Therefore, digital education is critical.

As parents, we have a responsibility to educate our children in the conscious and responsible use of technology. This does not mean demonizing technology, but rather teaching them to use it in a balanced and productive way, without it becoming a substitute for activities that are important for their growth.

Given that misuse can cause addiction, let’s see together how best to handle this with our children.

Understanding digital addiction

Before we can help our children avoid digital addiction, it is important to understand its signs and symptoms. You have to keep in mind that many of the devices we use and the apps themselves are often engineered to cause addiction, specifically by interfering with our brain’s dopamine circuitry.

Here are some signs that could indicate an addiction to digital devices.

Overuse of technology: they spend much of their time on digital devices, neglecting other important activities such as studying, outdoor play, social relationships, and sleep.

Irritability and agitation when they cannot access technology: they express anxiety, frustration, or anger when they are removed from devices.

Neglect of responsibilities: decreased school performance, little interest in sports or creative activities, neglect of household chores.

Sleep problems: difficulty falling asleep or waking up in the morning, disturbed sleep due to nighttime use of devices.

Socialization problems: difficulty interacting with others face to face, preferring to spend time online instead of with friends and family.

Physical health problems: neck pain, headaches, visual fatigue due to prolonged use of devices.

Importantly, these signs do not always necessarily indicate addiction but can be indicative of problematic technology use. If you are concerned about your child’s digital habits, it is advisable to consult your pediatrician who will refer you to the right specialist.

Establish clear rules and limits with digital education

One of the pillars of digital education is having clear rules and limits that are shared with your children. These rules should be established taking into account the child’s age, maturity level, and expectations.

If you have never established quality rules, you can follow some of the following tips to do so.

Set the rules together: involve your children in setting the rules. Discuss with them the importance of balanced use of technology and listen to their opinions.

Set time limits: decide together how much time per day they can spend on devices, taking into account their age and school and sports activities.

Create “tech-free” zones: designate specific places in the home, such as the bedroom or dining table, where the use of digital devices is prohibited.

Be consistent and firm: it is crucial to enforce rules consistently and firmly, avoiding yielding to children’s constant demands.

Offer attractive alternatives: help your children find interesting and engaging alternative activities outside the digital world, such as playing sports, reading, playing outside, and spending time with friends and family.

Be a positive role model.

Children learn by observing, so we as parents must lead by example. Avoid spending too much time on devices in their presence, especially during meals or times of family interaction. Show interest in their activities, play with them, engage them in conversations, and spend quality time together.

Promote conscious use of technology.

Help your children develop critical thinking about technology. Teach them how to recognize misleading content, how to safely navigate the Internet, how to protect their privacy, and how to use devices creatively and productively. Critical thinking is a critical skill for developing good independence, and it is our job as parents to teach and encourage it.

In addition to setting rules and limits, it is crucial to encourage your children to engage in alternative activities that enhance their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Sports and physical activity: Promote the practice of individual or team sports, which promote physical well-being, socialization, and the development of motor skills.
  • Reading: Reading stimulates imagination, and enriches vocabulary and concentration skills. Provide your children with books of different kinds, appropriate to their age and interests.
  • Outdoor play: Outdoor play allows children to explore the world around them, get active and develop creativity.
  • Creative activities: Encourage your children to express their creativity through drawing, music, painting, writing or other artistic activities.
  • Family time: Set aside time each day to be together with your children by having conversations, playing games, cooking or doing any activity that strengthens your bond.

Dialogue and collaboration with the school

Maintaining an open and ongoing dialogue with your children about their use of technology is crucial. It is important to listen to their online experiences, understand their doubts and concerns, and be available to answer their questions, providing support and guidance. To facilitate this dialogue, it is advisable to choose a quiet, distraction-free time, listen carefully to what they are saying without interrupting them or minimizing their problems, show empathy by trying to understand their point of view, avoid demonizing technology but rather focus on the risks and consequences of overuse, and collaborate with them to find solutions to the problems they encounter online.

In addition, schools play a key role in children’s digital education, and it is important to collaborate with teachers and educators to promote responsible use of technology both in the classroom and at home. Proposals for collaboration with schools include organizing informational meetings for parents about digital education, promoting the inclusion of digital education programs in the school curriculum to educate children in the safe and conscious use of technology, and encouraging the use of digital tools in an educational way to foster research, learning, and collaboration.

We are with you

Parentalife is with you on this journey. Through customized guides, courses and consultations, we support you in educating your children and in the daily parenting management. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you feel you need help.

Fonti

Nageswaran P, Leedham-Green K, Nageswaran H, Madeira Teixeira Baptista AV. Digital wellbeing: Are educational institutions paying enough attention? Med Educ. 2023 Mar;57(3):216-218. doi: 10.1111/medu.14977. Epub 2022 Nov 25. PMID: 36403113; PMCID: PMC10099791.

About the Author

Claudia Denti

Claudia Denti is the founder of Genitore Informato and Parentalife.