Too often when we hear the word “technology” chased by the phrase “our kids” there’s a negative connotation on the way. A finger is about to be wagged.
Yes, there’s probably a bit too much Netflix going on with this generation. And you can take it from a veteran video games critic with offspring of his own. Being told to go run around outside with a stick is a tough sell next to a PlayStation.
Don’t believe me? I found my six and nine-year-old in the backyard yesterday. They were sitting cross-legged on the lawn in front of a tipped over cardboard box. The family cat was asleep inside and one of them was pushing imaginary buttons on the sandal “controller” gripped in his hands. Evidently, they’d spent a fair chunk of the afternoon going for the high score on Cat™. It was pretty bleak.
Digital wellbeing – what does it mean?
General wellbeing refers to the capacity to live our lives as closely as possible to our ideal existence. It’s sense of self. We’re talking life satisfaction and the promotion of positive relationships with other people. Where possible, of course. Some folks are just difficult.
“Wellbeing [isn’t] just thinking about the fleeting moments of happiness we experience but also our overall satisfaction with life” – Vanessa King, Master of Positive Psychology, UPA
Building off that concept, digital wellbeing is defined as the skills and capability of the individual to positively co-exist with digital technologies. It’s the daily balance many of us are faced with today. The ability to sensibly juggle work-life balance, relationships, safety and personal health in this fast-moving, globally interconnected world of ours. Technology can delight, educate and entertain, but you there’s always a downside to the latest gizmos. You don’t have to be a raging luddite to spot pitfalls that include:
Health and Fitness Unless the technology in question is a Fitbit, most gizmos promote a sedentary lifestyle. This increases one’s risk of weight gain and diabetes. Studies have also shown that being latched onto a screen will lower cardiovascular health and raise your mortality risk.
Manage digital workload, overload and distraction The pull of that “one more go / episode / website / social media refresh” is strong. It’s a nagging distraction that can ruin your workflow and concentration. Overuse of screens can also cause vision issues, sleep deprivation, chronic neck/back pain and even impaired cognitive function.
Act safely and responsibly in digital environments The Internet is both a source of information and fun, and a hive of scum and villainy. Failing to consider and implement privacy and data security barriers can result in stressful and financially draining situations. Cyberbullying, the latest way for humans to be inhuman to one another, needs to be guarded against, too.
General digital wellbeing solutions
Hopefully I’ve not just painted digital technology as the root of all evil. It isn’t. The benefits of technology far outweigh the downsides. We just need to be willing to take some steps to control it (and not the other way around). In terms of a schooling environment, there are also some simple steps to take to make life more pleasant.
Phone bans Sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective. Put a bowl on a desk and have everybody surrender their tech into it. (Yes, even the backup phone you keep in your secret ankle holster.) Set a timer of minutes or hours and live like Amish folk for a while.
VPN tech One of the best ways to enhance your online anonymity is to obfuscate your connection with a VPN (Virtual Private Networks). In layman’s terms, it’s a service that scrambles and reroutes your Internet presence. It may sound cloak and dagger or legally grey, but VPNs are perfectly legitimate services offered by many reputable businesses.
Wellbeing apps If you’re an android user, look into an app called Google’s Digital Wellbeing. Apple users ought to check out Screen Time. These purpose-built apps can be set to immediately lock the device after a certain period. Or they can trigger a cool-down mode to incrementally ease younger users into the approaching cut-off point.
How digital communication and tech plays a role
By implementing some of the concepts above, digital wellbeing can offer benefits to everyone, especially through a dedicated school app. For starters, these can help parents and guardians enjoy a greater sense of community and connection to their school. Being better informed and organised ensures they can make better plans to attend and share special at events with their children. Even the simple fact of knowing it’s “exam season” can help a caregiver to deal with increased stress.
Likewise, teachers and faculty can maximise their own personal wellbeing with effective digital communication. The distribution of educational content through a school app will instill a better sense of connection and community. A caregiver’s communication with you need not solely be centred on reacting to a negative situation. School apps facilitate healthier, more rewarding relationships with parents. When everybody is on the same page – a digital one, not a printed handout that’s been lost – everybody is less stressed. And the less stress, the happier everybody is!
Over to you
If your school is keen to realise the wellbeing benefits of a school app, speak to Warren, our school communication specialist about how to get the most out of SkoolBag.