Digital Wellness for Kids:

Active vs. Passive Consumption

As technology continues to become an integral part of our kids’ daily lives, it's crucial to prioritize digital wellness for kids and students in schools, as an addition to the digital citizenship programs that are already established in many. The problem I see, however, is that the conversation about technology and device use often centers around "screen time" and how much time young people spend on their devices. In fact, that’s the number one question I get in every parent session I lead, “how many hours should my child be on a device?” While it's essential to monitor and manage screen time up to a certain age, it's equally, if not more important, to shift the conversation towards understanding passive versus active consumption and engagement, and what digital wellness is.  For this post, I’ll be focusing on this notion of screen time, and not all screen time is created equal. How our children are using devices is really the question that should be asked.

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Kristy Goodwin, a digital wellbeing and digital parenting expert, emphasizes that we need to focus on the quality of children's screen time, not just the quantity. Goodwin argues that screens can be beneficial for children when used in ways that support their learning and development. For example, using educational apps or playing games that promote problem-solving and critical thinking can be beneficial for children's cognitive development. As a teacher and digital wellness educator myself, I understand the importance of helping young people develop healthy technology habits that will benefit them for years to come. I believed in it so much that I developed a CCA at my school for students to learn more about digital wellness.

Passive vs Active Consumption

Passive consumption involves mindlessly scrolling through social media, watching TV shows or movies for hours on end, or playing video games without any critical engagement or creativity. It’s really easy when there isn’t any friction to help us stop! Have you noticed the “autoplay next episode”? If we don’t turn off the autoplay feature, it’s easy for the content to just keep coming! In contrast, active consumption and engagement involve using technology for a purpose, such as learning, creating, and connecting with others. 

Passive Engagement:

We need to encourage kids and students to engage in active consumption and engagement, at school and at home, as this promotes critical thinking, creativity, digital citizenship, and overall, digital literacy. Active engagement can help them develop the skills they need to navigate the digital world and make informed decisions about their online behavior.

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Opportunities at School and at Home

To shift the conversation towards active consumption and engagement, we can focus on providing young people with opportunities to use technology for a purpose, such as creating content, connecting with others, or learning new skills. This can involve integrating technology into classroom activities, encouraging students to participate in online discussions or projects, and promoting the use of technology for educational purposes. There are A LOT of apps out there in education right now. Many are for practice, like skill and drill. I’d be cautious of how your child is using them. Is there friction built into the app, or are they being taught how to reflect using that tool? For example, when a math or literacy problem is incorrect, are they taught how to stop, read the suggestions for next time, and reflect on their own learning, before moving on?

Active Engagement:

We need to discourage passive consumption at school and at home, and help young people develop healthy habits around their technology use. We can do this by encouraging breaks, promoting alternative activities like outdoor play or creative projects, modeling healthy technology habits ourselves, and using some of the ideas above for active engagement.

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What About Gaming? Is it Active or Passive?

One of the most significant challenges our children  face is finding the right balance between technology use and their lives, especially when everyone has an opinion on the subject (clearly I do, I’m writing about it!). The lure of social media, online gaming, and streaming platforms can lead to excessive screen time in general, passive or active, which CAN have negative effects on our physical and mental health, including obesity, sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression. I struggle with this one a lot. My son is a gamer. I struggled with it until I started reading research for BOTH sides of the argument, and found out that there’s a lot of positives that come out of gaming, and it CAN be an active process for the brain, depending on what he’s doing. This is a must read page collated by Primary Technology for Learning Coordinator John Mikton! John is also passionate about helping parents and educators understand and leverage technology in meaningful and productive ways. You can hear more from John on his website,, and follow him on Twitter at @jmikton.

I also came across this chart by Dr. Bobo Blankson, which really put gaming and social behavior into perspective for me.

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That's why it's crucial to prioritize digital wellness education for kids and students in schools. We need to teach them how to use technology responsibly and develop healthy tech habits that will help them achieve balance and manage their screen time effectively. And the conversation shouldn’t stop at screen time or gaming. There’s a lot more on the subject of digital wellness when it comes to thinking about our kids and what we can do to help them develop healthy tech habits. My website, which is focused on digital wellness, provides a wealth of information and resources that parents, teachers, and students can use to promote healthy technology use.

What Now?

Firstly, it's important to educate kids and students about the effects of excessive screen time in general on their health. We can do this by emphasizing the importance of physical activity and good sleep habits, as well as introducing the concept of passive vs. active tech use. I provide resources on my website that can help with this.

Secondly, we can teach them about the importance of digital wellness and what that encompasses, such as taking care of our mental and physical health. We can encourage kids and students to take breaks from technology and engage in non-digital activities. My website provides a range of resources on this topic.

In conclusion, prioritizing digital wellness for kids and students in schools involves shifting the conversation from screen time to passive versus active consumption and engagement. By encouraging young people to engage in active consumption and providing them with opportunities to use technology for a purpose, we can help them develop critical thinking skills, creativity, and digital citizenship. And by discouraging passive consumption and modeling healthy technology habits, we can help them develop healthy habits around their technology use. As Kristy Goodwin emphasizes, it's not about demonizing screens, but about using them in ways that support children's learning and development. My website provides a wealth of resources and information on this topic, and I encourage you to explore it and make use of these resources to promote digital wellness among young people.


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Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2021). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 69(1), 97-103.

Hutton, J. S., Dudley, J., Horowitz-Kraus, T., DeWitt, T., & Holland, S. K. (2020). Associations between screen-based media use and brain white matter integrity in preschool-aged children. JAMA Pediatrics, 174(1), e193869.

Goodwin, K. (2020). Digital Nutrition: Raising Balanced Digital Kids. Kristy Goodwin.