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Help Your Kids Find Their Digital Balance With Their Device

Have you ever struggled with finding the right balance between technology and everyday life for your children? In today's digital age, the initiation into technology often comes earlier than we might expect. Like many parents, my wife and I faced this challenge head-on when we celebrated our son's 5th birthday by giving him his first Chromebook. I learned all about this from the book Digital For Good by Richard Culatta, the CEO of ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education). As an ISTE Certified Educator, I naturally gravitate towards the amazing resources that ISTE offers and find the contents very beneficial, not only in my professional world but also in my personal one as well.

While we're excited about the educational and creative opportunities this new tool presents, we're equally focused on ensuring our son develops a healthy balance with his new device. Like teaching a child to choose vegetables along with cookies, we want him to learn not just the fun but also the functional, responsible ways to use technology. This journey isn't just about setting rules; it's about guiding him to self-regulate and make the most of the digital world responsibly. Here's how we can tackle this together, as parents and educators.

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What To Do

Model Tolerance and Kindness

Digital literacy starts with digital civility. By pointing out and discussing positive interactions online, we teach our children that kindness and respect are as important online as they are in person. For instance, highlighting a friendly exchange on a social media platform can be a teachable moment, reinforcing that "It's important to be kind like that when we talk to people on the internet, isn't it?" This practice instills the principles of digital etiquette early on.

Expand Beyond Online Safety

Often, discussions about kids and technology are framed around safety. While crucial, it's equally important to explore the vast educational landscape available. Whether it’s videos about the solar system or interactive math games, asking your child, "What do you want to learn about today on your Chromebook?" opens up a dialogue about using technology for growth and discovery.

Focus on Positive Digital Behaviors

Instead of just consuming content, using the device to create—be it drawing, coding, or making music—encourages creative thinking. Inviting your child to "make something cool on your laptop" shifts the focus from passive consumption to active creation, highlighting the device's potential as a tool for creativity.

Create Clear and Positive Agreements

Setting guidelines for device use is more effective when children are involved in the decision-making process. Discussing and agreeing on rules together ensures they feel responsible and valued, creating a sense of ownership over their digital experiences.

Practice Appreciative Inquiry

Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Celebrating responsible usage or creative endeavors encourages a child to continue using their device in beneficial ways. Simple acknowledgments like, "I noticed how well you followed our rules today," can reinforce good habits.

Experience a Variety of Digital Activities

Encouraging your child to explore various applications broadens their understanding and enjoyment of technology. From educational apps to creative tools, diverse experiences prevent screen time from becoming monotonous and purely recreational.

Recognize the Varying Values of Digital Activities

After your child spends time on a digital activity, discussing what they learned helps them assess the value of their screen time. Questions like, "Did you learn something new from that app?" help them think critically about how they choose to spend their time online.

Have A Digital Discussion

Conversations about digital use should be regular and age-appropriate. Questions like, "What did you like about that game?" or "How do you feel after using your Chromebook for a while?" engage children in reflecting on their digital habits and encourage them to make mindful choices.

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What Not To Do

Don’t Rely Solely on Screen Time Limits

While it's necessary to manage how much time children spend on digital devices, focusing solely on the clock can overlook the quality of their activities. Instead of strict limits, balance screen time with other activities and focus on the enrichment offered by their digital engagements. Taking extra time to write an email to a teacher should not be viewed the same as mindlessly watching YouTube videos—using screen time as a barometer is not the best way to measure productivity or learning.

Don’t Teach Digital Citizenship as a List of Don’ts

Digital citizenship is about more than just avoiding risks; it's about engaging positively with technology. Teach and demonstrate how to use the internet for learning and respectful interaction, which is far more empowering than a list of negatives. It's similar to teaching healthy eating habits—not just focusing on what foods to avoid but emphasizing those that are beneficial.

Don’t Ignore the Importance of Modeling Positive Behavior

Children learn by example. It's crucial that we, as adults, practice the digital habits we want to instill. This means engaging with technology in a balanced and thoughtful manner ourselves. Have you ever shared something you've learned on the internet with your child, or do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling on your phone around them? While children will notice both behaviors, actively sharing and discussing online content can positively influence their approach to balancing screen time.

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Digital Balance Choice Board

The centerpiece of teaching digital balance is the Digital Balance Choice Board. This is a fun and interactive tool designed to help young children balance their digital time effectively. It categorizes digital activities into three distinct areas—Share & Care, Brain Boosters, and Play Zone—each representing a different type of engagement. The board helps children, educators, and parents visualize and plan daily or weekly digital activities that balance entertainment, learning, and social interaction.

To promote a well-rounded digital experience, children are encouraged to engage in at least 1 Share & Care activity or complete 2 Brain Booster activities before choosing an activity in the Play Zone. This system ensures that while technology provides fun and relaxation, it also supports educational and social development, ensuring a healthy relationship with technology.

Share & Care activities lay the foundation for social interaction and empathy, such as video calling relatives or collaborating on digital art projects.

Develop With Jud Digital Balance Choice Board Share & Care

Brain Boosters include educational games and puzzles that challenge cognitive skills and encourage learning.

Develop With Jud Digital Balance Choice Board Brain Boosters

Play Zone activities like playing child-friendly video games or watching educational shows provide relaxation and fun.

Develop With Jud Digital Balance Choice Brain Boosters

This choice board not only guides daily digital activity but also teaches children to self-regulate and prioritize their time effectively, blending fun with learning and social engagement.

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Navigating the digital world with our children is a journey of balance and education. By actively participating in this process and employing tools like the Digital Balance Choice Board, we can help our children harness the benefits of their devices while developing healthy digital habits. What steps will you take today to help your child find balance in their digital world?


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