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Avoid Digital Curriculum When You Can

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding children ages 13-18 years, teenagers should have no more than two hours per day of personal technology use, and video games should be limited to 30 minutes per day. With the rise of digital curriculum, I am concerned our teens will go well over the daily limit. For every hour of digital instruction, there should be at least one hour of face-to-face instruction.

Technology Can Cause Many Problems 

Technology, especially social media, has been attributed to rising depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, and sleep deprivation. Caroline Miller's article, Does Social Media Use Cause Depression? explains many of these issues. Studies conducted in 2017 showed a marked increase of depressive symptoms and suicide rates after smartphones were introduced in 2007. Self-esteem, especially for teenaged girls, is largely impacted by what they see on social media. The widespread use of photoshop has been incredibly damaging to teens as they compare themselves to these impossible standards. Loss of physical activity is also a leading factor of depression. If a teen is sacrificing exercise or time outside to scroll through social media, they miss out on activities that can help them feel accomplished and confident. Screen time should be limited to prevent depression related to social media.

Limit Digital Homeschooling 

Begin to use real books and hands-on curriculum, even if that means that you read aloud textbooks, or find a tutor who can assist your student. In her article, A Learning Secret: Don't Take Notes with a Laptop, author Cindi May quotes, "taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning. Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture. Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information. Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy "mental lifting," and these efforts foster comprehension and retention." Limit technology only to your 1-2 most difficult subjects and reduce the risks of excessive technology in your home. If your student is taking an online course, encourage taking physical notes to foster retention and better comprehension.

Choose Curriculum that Fits 

Only you know your child, and know your child's interests and learning style. Just as you would not force a teenage into a toddler-sized shirt, do not force curriculum that doesn't fit your family! I have some resources to help you look at multiple options, so you can get some non-tech ideas. Try these short Coffee Break Books on Amazon:

Homeschool Curriculum That's Effective and Fun: Avoid the Crummy Curriculum Hall of Shame!

Planning High School Courses: Charting the Course Toward High School Graduation

Another suggested resource: 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy

Locate a nearby homeschool convention and attend with your family to discover different curriculum providers and styles in the curriculum fair. Looking at all the non-tech options will really inspire you!

How Much Internet is TOO MUCH Internet? 

Our families are surrounded by electronic devices. Our TV can connect to the internet. We have a computer, laptop, smart phones, tablets, and gaming devices. In the midst of our tangled electronic cables, how can you keep your kids safe and sane, without ruining their life or sheltering them too much? What can you do?

Here are 5 steps for safe and sane internet use.

1. Lead by example, and demonstrate responsible behavior in your own internet usage, whether online, playing games, on your phone, or using social media. "Do as I say, not as I do" is no way to lead your children to better habits. If you set technology rules for your kids, be sure to follow them yourself. If dinner is a phone-free-zone, that means Mom and Dad's phones too.

2. Keep the computer in a public place to avoid inappropriate behaviors and assess potential problems. When computers are in public spaces, illicit or sneaky behavior is much harder to hide, and therefore, harder to accomplish. If you catch your child on forbidden sites or defying the household technology rules, it's time for a talk. Often a direct conversation about technology boundaries and forbidden sites can make all the difference. Screen time is a privilege and must be respected as such.

3. Install filters and monitoring software, knowing these devices alone can't keep your children safe. Filters and monitors will help you limit your child's exposure to dangerous sites. These things can alert you when they are entering a dangerous site, but there are always loopholes and things the filter may not catch. As much as we dread to think it, there are endless opportunities (intentional or not) on the internet for your child to be exposed to explicit or inappropriate material. Set clear expectations for safe viewing, but more importantly, make sure your child understands the dangers for themselves. If they know what to avoid, they will be less likely to stumble onto something unawares.

4. Turn off the internet at night to prevent sneaking around to use the internet, or sleep interruptions caused by nighttime use. Evening is the most popular time for pornographic websites. Because of the addictive and destructive nature of pornography, steps should be taken to protect your child form the life-long affects. When you deem it appropriate, explain to your child the dangers of pornography and the affects it can have on their self-esteem, future relationships, and empathy, just to name a few. Sleep interruptions are also a repercussion of using screens late at night. The blue light in the screens blocks the body's ability to make melatonin, the "sleepy" hormone. Experts suggest having phone-free time for 2 hours before bedtime to foster healthy melatonin production and therefore, a better night's sleep.

5. Set up internet free times, so your family will know how to have fun even without electronic devices of any kind. It is crucial to have at least one period in the day that the family can enjoy phone-free time together, and suggested to have one day a week that is especially focused on screen-free time. A daily time together might be at the dinner table. This is the perfect time to recap of the highs and lows of the day. Having each person share their favorite part of their day is sure to get conversation flowing. Each week you can choose a day to do a larger activity as a family. A board game, a long walk or hike, making an intricate meal, volunteering, or finding a craft to do together are all great examples, and great fun!

If you would like to learn more about the effects of technology and setting boundaries, check out TechnoLogic: How to Set Technology Boundaries and Stop the Zombie Apocalypse.

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