By Dr. Eli Shapiro
I began exploring the norms of responsible technology-related behavior, and how that definition evolves with technology, while doing my doctoral dissertation on cyberbullying in 2012.
I realized the issues weren’t just about bullying and graphic content on the Internet, but also social functioning and behavioral functioning. It’s not only about Internet safety but how technology impacts our lives and our functioning. Does it enhance our lives or serve as an intrusion in our lives? Out of that, the concepts [of digital citizenship] were born. The goal was to educate people by understanding the inherent challenges technology may represent.
I founded The Digital Citizenship Project (DCP) in 2014. Together with Temima Feldman, associate director, we work with schools, parents, and libraries to teach kids about digital citizenship through lectures, workshops, boot camps, and our Tech Smart curriculum, which has been used by over 4,700 students.
A study conducted by Amy Orben and Andrew K. Przybylski, reported in Psychological Science, “Screens, Teens, and Psychological Well-Being: Evidence From Three Time-Use-Diary Studies, 2019,” concluded “We found little clear-cut evidence that screen time decreases adolescent well-being, even if the use of digital technology occurs directly before bedtime.”
This seems to counter an earlier study, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, where researchers at San Diego State University studied 40,000 children and concluded that more than one hour per day of screen time for children ages two to 17 is associated with lower psychological well being.
Psychology Today reported: “The most significant effects were found among 14- to 17-year-olds whose screen time usage was high, seven or more hours per day. These users were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety or sought help for a psychological issue in the past year. Generally, the study showed that more hours of daily screen time were associated with less curiosity, more difficulty with friendships, more distractibility, less emotional steadiness, and less ability to complete tasks.”
Yet, the DCP’s research indicates only 38 percent of parents feel confident managing their children’s technology use.
Here are some tips to ease tech conflicts at home:
- Use Tech Tools
Deploy tech tools like device filters, Google activity logging, and apps that limit screen time, but don’t rely on them too much. Think of them as seatbelts that make you feel safer but don’t teach you to be a safe driver.
- Extend Digital Privileges Gradually
Start with more digital oversight when your kids are younger and widen their digital independence — the same way you watched your children go down the block by themselves for the first time. As they demonstrate responsible behavior, we give them more freedom.
- Create Tech Zones
Kids should use computers in a public, shared area of the home. No device use behind closed doors.
- Wind Down
No devices in bed. All devices should have a designated shut-off time.
- Set Tech-Free Time
Declare digital-free periods like dinner time or the first half hour after arriving home.
Dr. Eli Shapiro is a licensed clinical social worker with a doctorate in education. He founded The Digital Citizenship project in 2014.