It’s All about Balance: How to Teach your Students to Integrate Technology in a Healthy Way

ipadyoupad says: it’s ok to shut it down!

I have been preparing for a presentation on Netiquette to the Grade 7s. As they are our first cohort required to have iPads, certain challenges have arisen that I need to address, one being the obsessive nature of their iPad use. It is not uncommon to see a herd of them in the rotunda at school, squashed five on a bench, hunched like a football team over their iPads.

Now, here is the problem. For us adults, this looks a lot like anti-social behaviour. But for them it is the opposite. A teacher mentioned this to the group of students, when she saw that they were hunched over their iPads chatting online to each other.

Teacher: “Hey ladies. It is lunchtime. Why don’t you socialize a bit?”

Students [eyes rolling in typical you-are-a-crazy-adult-who-makes-no-sense teen form]: Umm, like that’s what we’re doing.

So how do I give them a presentation that I want to be positive and affirming without sounding scoldy? How do I get them to understand that the iPad, cell phone [insert tech device here] is a tool not a toy, the means not the end?

Of course, I do what I always do- go to the internet to see if someone else has already written about this. To my surprise, I haven’t been able to find anybody that gives students tips on how to manage their technology. There are articles for parents on how to balance your children’s tech, like this one that I feel is rather good. Others from the parenting perspective are very fear-inducing and prescriptive, like this one and this one. I also don’t have much of a problem with setting limits in the family home- I do it myself. And I think it is extremely important to open a dialogue with the parents about the effective use of the iPad. We had someone come to talk last year to the parents and hopefully we can plan another session for them again this year.

But what about school? What about lunchtime and recess? How do we promote the effective, balanced use of the iPad without resorting to prescriptive methods like banning the iPad at lunch (which wouldn’t work anyways since it is their main notepad and homework-doing vehicle).

So I decided to start my own list. Here is what I would like to tell the Grade Sevens about managing technology in their life. I would love to have feedback on this- please comment and tell me what you think they should know!

NOTE: I am only addressing the balanced use issue- not any of the other topics we need to discuss, such as flame wars, recording people without their permission, and on and on…

1.It’s okay to shut it down! really!  

The iPad is a wonderful device. It lets you create documents, movies, audio files. You can

This is me, taking my own advice and shutting down my iPad. As you can see, I had much fear and trepidation.

play games on it as well as connect with friends. But like any tool, when you are done with it, you put it back.  Think of it as a book- when you are done reading, you close the book. Don’t be afraid to shut the device down. Like a good book, when it is open it is very hard not to read it. When the iPad is on, it is very hard not to look at it. Shutting it down will allow you to concentrate on the people around you. Which brings me to my second point:

Is this socializing or isn’t it? Discuss amongst yourselves.

2. Don’t listen to your parents- school is for socializing!

What other place allows you to see your friends for at least six hours a day? (okay. that sounds kind of horrifying. Didn’t mean it like that). One of the great advantages of being plugged in is that it is easier and easier to hook up with friends. Use it to figure out your plans, or work on group projects when you are at home. Why would you chat online with someone when they are sitting right next to you? Take advantage of one of the best aspects of school- the physical presence of your friends.

Note- I was joking about not listening to your parents. You should always listen to your parents, if only so you can argue with them more effectively.

3. Schedule a time in the day where you check your social media. Then shut it down.

This tip was given to me in library school from my professor of knowledge Management

Kermit and Miss Piggy take a break from their gruelling social media schedule to frolic in the fields. See? See how happy they are?

(yep- that’s a real course). She was a very busy woman, writing books, traveling to speak at conferences, teaching moi. She told me the way she managed the daunting amount of emails she got in a day was that she checked her emails [insert all social media here] twice a day. Once mid-morning and once at 4 pm. She only checked it after she got a couple hours of her own work done and was not in danger of being distracted by whatever was waiting for her in her inbox. And then again later on in the day, just in case there was some urgent business in the day. In this way she did not feel like she was a slave to her computer and was able to get some work done. Which brings me to my last point:

4. Don’t be a Slave to your Machine

I promise that you will not be missing anything if you log off for a few hours really. Okay, you might miss the your friend Angela posting what she’s currently eating for an after school snack, but otherwise the social media will still be there when you come back from playing soccer, or going for a swim or even taking the dog for a walk. Social media is a wonderful tool, but it’s not so good when it starts to use you.

Many teens get what experts call “junk sleep” because they are interrupted by having too many electronic gadgets in their room – and on – while they sleep. (Photo illustration by Sean Simmers)

5. Turn it off at night!

There are several studies showing a link between screen time right before bed and bad sleep habits. You have busy busy days- you need your beauty rest. Make sure you shut down your iPad before going to bed so no pesky notifications, or other beeping sounds wake you up. I would also recommend you doing that with your phone, or even better, keeping it outside of your room. It really can wait until the morning. I swear.


Questions? Comments?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s