Digital Wellness in Schools
What better way for kids to understand forming positive tiny habits, than to learn about them and practice them in school, where many are now 1:1 device schools. It’s the perfect opportunity for someone other than mom or dad to bring their attention to their digital habits and address the changes that could, and should, be made. We know social media is here to stay, so why not learn how to use it for inspiration, lifting someone up, promoting the good in the world? Let’s change the conversation from ‘Get off your phone!’, ‘You’re wasting time online!’, ‘I’m monitoring you’ and ‘You’re addicted!” to something more productive, more meaningful, and one that will get your children talking to you about what they do online! I think you’d be surprised at how much our kids have to say about their online world.
In my last school, I had started a CCA (co curricular activity) after school simply called Digital Citizenship. I had grades 3-5 in one session, and grades 6-8 in another. It was great, and really let kids share ideas freely, learn while having fun, and feel like it was a club rather than a lesson being forced during school time (which often come across as monotonous and kids tune out). While the CCA was a hit, and ran that way for two years, I needed, and wanted, something more for the students. That’s when I started the Digital Wellness CCA. I focused on grade 5 students, as due to the pandemic, I was only allowed to teach the grade level in which I worked. But, that was ok! The conversation was different than in my digital citizenship CCA. They were truly engaged, really reflecting, and taking into account all of the information I was giving them, relating it to their own lives, sharing examples and thinking of opportunities. We covered everything from wearables to phubbing to the “bottomless bowl” concepts, mental health to starting tiny habits. They were learning how to take screen breaks by using certain exercises, and actually using them in the classrooms! So much excitement was being had that the most often statement made by the kids was, “I am SO teaching my parents this because they need it as much as I do.” I realized that we had created a positive conversation around technology, and they felt safe and supported to do so. It was brilliant. We connected, and they were listening.
Moreover, prioritizing digital wellness in schools can help students build essential skills such as digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving, which will serve them well in their future academic and professional pursuits. That is what solidified it for me. Digital wellness was where it was at in schools, and it needed to start early. Since then, I turned my CCA into adult versions, hosting webinars for Common Sense and Cognita, and even teaching others teachers via EduSpark. I now run digital wellness boot camps for adults and children, and have come up with scope and sequences for K-12, vocabulary, school digital wellness inventories, book lists, etc, all because I believe in it so much. Craig reflected on where we were and where we are now in the world of EdTech:
“Now, 4 years later, I look back at the work we did and understand that there is more to a strategy than the implementation of tools and ideas. It takes a whole community and leadership to buy in to get true and sustainable momentum. I see the success of the program in one part of the school but not others, and the clear reason for this was leadership buy-in and support.
As you think about the work you do in your school, think about the people around you that can lift you up and shout from the rooftop WITH you. These are the people that will help create a movement and ensure it is sustainable and makes a difference in the lives of the entire community.”