This post is sponsored by Google
In an age when our kids are surrounded by technology, are they mindful about unplugging in favor of their own digital wellbeing? If you doubt that your child even knows what it means to unplug, chances are they know how it feels when they spend too much time connected to their online worlds and friends through social media.
With winter break here and the year coming to a close, it’s the perfect opportunity for families to think about digital habits and create conversations about building positive relationships with technology. Since media use is always on my mind, I recently taught a lesson to my 8th grade computer science class about media balance. I wasn’t surprised by how the 13 year olds in my class were spending their time but found their thoughts on how screen time made them feel to be insightful and honest.
Lessons from 8th Graders About Media Balance and Digital Wellbeing
As homework, students were asked to write down what media they used after school, how long they used each platform, and how it made them feel. Students admitted to playing hours of video games with friends, spending too much time scrolling through Instagram, and watching YouTube videos. Their logs demonstrated they spent more time-consuming content than creating it, or using it to complete homework. There was also a wide variance about how their media use made them feel.
Many said playing video games made them feel great because they liked the social aspect of playing with friends. Others said they felt bored watching YouTube or that scrolling through Instagram made them feel depressed. When asked for details, one student told me the content presented through the Instagram Explore Tab feels aspirational and so out of reach for 13 year olds who dream big but have limited budgets.
When we discussed how they could achieve a better media balance for digital wellbeing, their answers surprised me in the best way. Many stated that by using timers on their phones, they could be prompted to limit technology use. Others wanted to balance screen time with more outside time and made goals to seek out friends to play basketball, soccer, or for walks around the neighborhood. One student wrote they wanted help from a parent to be held accountable.
How to Talk About Digital Wellbeing with Your Teens
Parents often think that school is the place where kids learn everything and once they’re home, can be hands off. While lots of learning occurs during the 6+ hours students are within the walls of the building, it’s important to reinforce learning at home.
The lesson I taught asked kids to reflect about their media use and consider steps they could take to be more digitally well. Acknowledging how technology is used in different ways by today’s teens and the feelings they get from time spent on various platforms is important. This critical thinking and reflection about media use is designed to help my students work towards positive digital habits and digital wellness.
I know from being a parent of a middle schooler that it’s not always easy to know what your child is learning at school. This makes it difficult to extend learning through your conversations at home. If you’re wondering How to Teach Your Kids to Unplug in Favor of Digital Wellbeing, here are some helpful tips and free resources to get you started. It’s my hope that we can get tweens and teens to be more mindful about their media use so they can take positive steps to take towards digital wellness.
When you tell your teens you want to talk about media balance and screen time, they’ll probably roll their eyes and think they’re in trouble. Instead, start by explaining why you want to unplug more . Be honest about your feelings to provide your family with context for your discussion.
In order to start the conversation, you might want to say things like:
- I feel like technology is in control of me because my phone is the first thing I look at when I wake up and the last thing I put down before going to sleep.
- I’m tired of always feeling like there’s always another email to answer and I have to respond to texts right away. I feel like I’m tied to my phone.
- I’m sorry I’m so distracted. I’m working to unplug more and hope you can help me.
- I wish our family time didn’t always involve our phones.
If the statements above don’t fit your situation and you’re struggling with what to say, just know that you can’t say the wrong thing if you’re honest.
Be Critical of Yourself
When was the last time you took a hard look at your own digital habits? If you want your family to be mindful and make changes, you have to be critical of yourself. Use the free 8 question Self-Reflection Tool from Google’s Digital Wellbeing site to evaluate your current experience with technology and share the results with your family.
Let them know exactly how many hours and minutes the free Digital Wellbeing app from Google said you’ve spent on your device. Share what surprised you. Tell them how the results made you feel and why they’re driving you to be more intentional about your digital life.
Encourage them to take a look at the Digital Wellbeing app and use the results to get your family members on board and striving towards more balance in the new year. Need more tools to help you unplug? Take a look at my post, 10 Tools That Will Help You Take Charge of Your Digital Life
Instead of laying down the gauntlet about the amount of screen time your child has during the day, use information from free tools. Insight from the Family Link app from Google can provide facts about screen time to create a more positive conversation. Telling kids to get off their phones, stop downloading apps, saying you don’t understand the attraction to watching gaming videos on YouTube, etc. falls on deaf ears.
My post, How to Talk to Tweens and Teens About Digital Safety and Screen Time, features some of the most frequently repeated phrases parents tell me they’re tired of saying to their kids. We know that tweens and teens tune us out but give them a reason to listen. This post reframes the conversation around digital safety and screen time and encourages the use of the free Family Link app from Google to inform conversations.
The Family Link app provides helpful information that can serve as a conversation starter about digital safety and screen time. It’s my hope that by changing the way we talk about these topics, we’re having more productive conversations that empower families to be confident in exploring the online world together.
Be Ready to Listen
When our kids talk, we want to jump in right away and provide answers but what if you were to stop and listen a bit longer? Our kids might be more open, honest, and reflective if we paused before speaking.
Encouraging kids to talk it out is one of the tenets of Google’s Be Internet Awesome but reflection is an important part of the process too. Being thoughtful can lead to more intentional technology use, helps fosters good judgement, and creates confidence.
As parents, it’s important to model the behavior we expect from our kids, both in person and online. We set the tone through our interactions with them and those around us. To keep every family member accountable, download the free Be Internet Awesome pledge. Review it together, have everyone sign it, and then tape it to your fridge as a daily reminder.
Media balance won’t happen overnight so it’s important to celebrate the small victories on your way towards digital wellbeing.
Need more advice about digital wellbeing and tools to help you achieve media balance? Google’s Digital Wellbeing Family Guide is a great resource! It provides tips on how to tackle tough topics, guidance on sparking productive conversations, and help identifying healthy habits for every age and stage of your family. More digital wellbeing tips and tools can be found to help you and your family at wellbeing.google.
You can also check out my past posts that feature more information about how to use free tools from the Google Be Internet Awesome and Google Be Internet Awesome to create positive conversations about technology, digital citizenship, and digital wellbeing in your home.
More Posts about Digital Wellbeing:
- How to Teach Your Kids to Unplug in Favor of Digital Wellbeing
- How to Talk to Tweens and Teens About Digital Safety and Screen Time
- 10 Tools That Will Help You Take Charge of Your Digital Life
Must-Read Posts about Digital Citizenship:
- Giving Your Child Their First Cell Phone? Read This First!
- These Free Resources Will Help You Raise Confident Digital Citizens
Posts about Digital Safety
- How Google Be Internet Awesome Teaches Kids It’s Cool to Be Kind
- 6 Ways Families Can Work Together to Be Internet Awesome on Safer Internet Day
- 6 Questions Parents Need to Ask Kids to Reinforce Kindness in the Digital World as a way to teach them how to treat others how you’d like to be treated, both online and IRL
- 3 Simple, Positive Actions to Teach Tweens to Combat Bullying
- How I Taught My Tween to Be an Upstander
- How to Talk to Kids When They See Adults Being Unkind
- How Kids Can Play Their Way Through Interland to Learn Digital Citizenship
I am compensated for my participation in the Google Family Partner program. This post is sponsored by Google but all opinions are my own.