Digital Media Health
Perspectives on Digital Media
As digital media and screen use continue to grow, parents are becoming more concerned about its effects on our children's well-being. Evidence shows both positives and negatives of digital media depending on how it is used, meaning it is neither inherently good nor bad. A thoughtful approach to digital media use may help alleviate the fears of families and allow for more conscientious habits.
Some concerns surround the ways in which screens interfere with our child's sleep, learning, face-to-face interactions, and time spent on other important activities. Excessive screen use is not limited to children and teens, but is also a concern for adults. Thus it is important that we as parents practice and model appropriate behavior for our children.
Questions to Consider
ChallengeSuccess recommends several questions to consider when thinking about our children's media use:
- When and where are our children using digital media? Are there times when digital media gets in the way of connection and communication as a family? Is social media disrupting focus on your child's homework and learning? Is it interfering with sleep?
- What are our children doing on digital media? What is interesting or engaging to them online?
- Why are our children online? How are they using media to connect, learn, create, or distract?
- What are our children NOT doing (or not doing enough) as a result of time spent online? In-person time with family and friends? Spending time outdoors? Pursuing interests? Exercising?
- How do our children feel and act after using media? How does this differ after various types of digital activities? How do they feel when they unplug?
Source Credit: ChallengeSuccess - Digital Media Tips & Resources
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.
The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:
- Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter
- SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through devices
- Instant Message (via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features)
With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:
- Persistent – Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.
- Permanent – Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.
- Hard to Notice – Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.
LVJUSD Cyberbullying Policy:
"When a student is suspected of or reported to be using electronic or digital communications to engage in cyberbullying against other students or staff or to threaten district property, the investigation shall include documentation of the activity, identification of the source, and a determination of the impact or potential impact on school activity or school attendance. Students shall be encouraged to save and print any messages sent to them that they feel constitutes cyberbullying and to notify a teacher, principal, or other employee so that the matter may be investigated.
-LVJUSD BP 5131.2
Warning Signs a Child is Being Cyberbullied or is Cyberbullying Others
Many of the warning signs that cyberbullying is occurring happen around a child’s use of their device. Some of the warning signs that a child may be involved in cyberbullying are:
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
- A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- A child becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities.
What to Do When Cyberbullying Happens
If you think that a child is involved in cyberbullying, there are several things you can do:
- Notice – Recognize if there has been a change in mood or behavior and explore what the cause might be. Try to determine if these changes happen around a child’s use of their digital devices.
- Talk – Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.
- Document – Keep a record of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it.
- Report – Most social media platforms have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it to the school. You can also contact app or social media platforms to report offensive content and have it removed. If a child has received physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
- Support – Peers, mentors, and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence a situation where negative or hurtful content has been posted about a child. Public intervention can include posting positive comments about the person targeted with bullying to try to shift the conversation in a positive direction. It can also help to reach out to the child who is bullying and the target of the bullying to express your concern. If possible, try to determine if more professional support is needed for those involved, such as speaking with a guidance counselor or mental health professional.
Source Credit: US Dept. of Health and Human Services' StopBullying.Gov
Screen Time Considerations
Developmental Digital Media Guidelines
Supervision is important. When very young children start using mobile devices or a computer, they should be supervised closely by a parent or caregiver. If young children aren’t supervised online, they may stumble onto content that could scare or confuse them. When you’re comfortable that your young children are ready to explore on their own, it’s still important to stay in close touch. You may want to restrict them to sites or apps that you’ve visited and know to be appropriate — at least in terms of their educational or entertainment value.
If you’re concerned about what your kids see online, consider tools with these parental control features:
- Filtering and blocking: These tools limit access to certain sites, apps, words, or images. Some products decide what’s filtered; others leave that to parents.
- Blocking outgoing content: This software prevents kids from sharing personal information online or via email.
- Limiting time: This software allows you to limit your kid’s time online and set the time of day they can access the internet.
- Browsers for kids: These browsers filter words or images you don’t want your kids to see.
- Kid-oriented search engines: These perform limited searches or filter search results for sites and material appropriate for kids.
- Monitoring tools: Software that alerts parents to online activity without blocking access. Some tools record the addresses of websites a child has visited; others provide a warning message when a kid visits certain sites. Monitoring tools can be used with or without a kid’s knowledge.
- Disabling in-app purchases from your device: These settings can limit or keep kids from making in-app purchases from your device.
Pre-teens need to feel “independent” but not alone as they start exploring on their own. Many 8- to 12-year-olds are adept at finding information online, but they still need guidance to help them understand which sources are trustworthy.
Think about limits. Consider setting limits on how long and how often they can be online — whether on computers, phones, or other mobile devices. For younger tweens, parental controls can be effective. However, many middle school kids have the technical know-how to get around those controls.
Teens are forming their own values and beginning to take on the values of their peers. Many are eager to experience more independence from their parents. However, they need to learn how to exercise judgment about being safe online and act in accordance with their family's ethics. Teens have more internet access through mobile devices — as well as more time to themselves — so it isn’t realistic for you to try to be in the same room when they’re online. They need to know that you and other family members can ask them about what they’re doing online.
Source Credit: US Federal Trade Commision's Net Cetera
Tips for Conscientious Digital Media Habits
Below are some starting points for thinking about the digital media use of your family:
- Protect sleep by setting aside technology at least a half-hour before bed
- Turn off notifications and alerts
- Set screen to grayscale for a few days
- Model thoughtful digital behavior for children
- Hold conversation with your child about screen use
- Collaborate with your child in creating family screen-use agreement
- Encourage students to foster real-life relationships
- Discuss safe and wise digital decision-making
- Help your child recognize everything they post online comprises a digital footprint
- Make sure your child understands the severity of cyberbullying
- Device Free Dinners - Tips for creating a Device Free Dinner routine.
- Family Media Agreement - Template for creating a family agreement around digital media use.
- Recommendations for Children’s Media Use - The American Academy of Pediatrics' time guidelines for child and teen media use.
- Wait Until 8th - Resources for familes waiting until 8th Grade to provide children with smartphones.
Books on Digital Media
Most books are available at the Livermore Public Library
by Ann Droyd Year Published: 2014
A parody of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie which is both amusing and starts the conversation around digital media use. After being given an iPhone, the mouse gets lost in a digital land and misses the reality and experience right in front of him.
by Cal Newport Year Published: 2019
Newport offers a description of digital minimalism, where people use technology sonscintiously as a tool instead of being compulsively reliant upon it. Rather than only offering tips for minimizing use, Newport describes a new philosophy around approaching digital media.
by Catherine Steiner-Adair EdD Year Published: 2014
This book looks at the transformation of childhood and family relationships during the digital age and offers solutions for parents in navigating the new frontier.