Guest blogger: Marsali Hancock
Marsali Hancock is president of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition. She speaks nationally and internationally on digital citizenship issues, including safety, security and ethics, and is the recipient of the 2009 Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Last summer, I remember watching Nik Wallenda become the first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a high wire. Besides thinking that he had completely lost his mind, my immediate thought was, “that’s some serious focus”. And it’s true – walking nearly half a mile, balancing on a tiny rope takes some concentration. Okay, a lot of concentration.
But these days, staying focused on one – only one – task or person for extended periods of time seems to be less common. Most of us can thank new technologies for the change, as they offer various ways for us to multitask.
Youth today can usually be found on their digital devices – all at once texting, listening to music, surfing the web, and interacting on social media platforms. In fact, new research shows that a typical teen jumps between devices and platforms twenty-seven times per hour!
But, contrary to current trends, there is a time to buckle down on homework, to disconnect in order to interact face-to-face, and to exercise or sleep for physical health. That’s why Balance is the first pillar of iKeepSafe’s “BEaPRO™ Online. This index identifies the six critical concepts needed to thrive and succeed in the digital age: Balance, Ethics, Privacy, Reputation, Relationships and Online Security.
What Does Balance Look Like?
Youth who ditch their devices to interact in person with friends and family, rather than on social media all the time, experience the benefits that come from balanced screen time. They have time to participate in fun activities together and enjoy each other’s company. A balanced youth may use Facebook to hear about a friend’s birthday party, but forgoes using her smartphone when she arrives so she can instead spend time bonding with friends.
Successfully balancing screen time promotes better sleep habits and overall health. Rather than staying awake into the wee hours of the morning surfing through photos on Instagram, balanced youth instead unplug and turn off phones and computers so they can get a full night’s rest.
In short, youth who take time away from their devices to talk face-to-face with their friends, enjoy enough rest, and step outside to exercise, enjoy improved physical and mental well being.
Remember, parents are the critical role model for kids, and striking the balance between online and offline activities is a lifelong skill that families can learn and practice together.
Parents striving to balance their household’s screen time, should consider these suggestions:
- Keep TVs and computers out of child’s bedroom
- Ban mobile devices at the dinner table
- Suggest fun alternatives to screen time (playing sports, spending time with friends, or cultivating a talent like playing an instrument)
- Agree together on what the maximum amount of screen time per day should be
- And perhaps most importantly, be a good role model. Show your child a good example of balancing screen time.
To receive more advice, tailored for an individual household, parents can now turn to iKeepSafe BEaPRO™ Parent – an online app developed with the expertise of attorneys, pediatricians, child psychiatrists, psychologists, cybercrime researchers, media literacy specialists, and school counselors.
Launching today, the BEaPRO™ Parent app will assess the specific needs of the users in a household, and then provide parents with the individualized resources they will need to help their child improve his/her technology health and safety.
Learn more about the app and how to stay balanced online by clicking here: http://www.ikeepsafe.org/beaproparent/