Technology – Be A Student Of Your Student

Be a Student of Your Student
Most people know teenagers have technology issues. Here’s an interesting article that might help you understand your teenager—and how they really feel about technology and social media—a little bit better:
We all think our students have addictions and issues with their technological devices. But if you took away an adult’s connection with the outside world—their cell phone, Facebook or Twitter accounts, texting or computer—many of us would find it hard to function too. Technology is a part of all of our lives, not just a student’s. And it’s become such a big part, that many of us aren’t even conscious of how much we check that phone or FB—even in a place you might least expect it. Here’s an article from the Fuller Youth Institute to give us a little food for thought on this idea of technology, and how it affects all of us.
The happiest place to text
By Brad Griffin
Recently I spent a day at Disneyland with my family, riding rides and battling crowds at the “Happiest place on earth.” Despite my cynicism for over-commercialized places and my frustration about marketing to kids…we had a great day and my kids had a blast.
But there was one thing that distracted me over and over throughout the day. It wasn’t all the teenagers attached to their cell phones—I actually saw most of the teenagers engaged in real-life conversations with the people around them.
It was the parents.
I couldn’t help but notice how many parents of kids of all ages were getting off rides and immediately checking their email and text inbox, ripping back responses as they floated behind their kids to the next attraction. Maybe they were bored out of their minds to be spending the day with their kids, but I doubt it. Maybe they were just distracted at that ONE time at the point I happened to see them (and I happened to catch about a hundred of them at just the right time). Or maybe they forgot what boundaries are and how to give their kids the gift of presence.
I get a lot of things wrong in parenting. But the more I saw this behavior, the more I was determined to completely ignore my phone (and it was my birthday!) to be present to my kids. I have to wonder, though: if this is what kids see at Disneyland from the adults around them (parents or otherwise), what are we as a culture showing them day after day in our “normal” lives?
I suspect that if we want them to put their phones down every now and then, we have to go first.
Originally published at http://fulleryouthinstitute.org. Reprinted with permission from the Fuller Youth Institute.
Action Point
In the above article, Brad Griffin talks about “going first” in the battle to create boundaries around the technology that is present in our everyday lives. It’s not that we have to delete our Facebook account or throw our iPhones out the window for dramatic effect. But we do have the opportunity to model good technology boundaries to our kids so they can start to think critically about the technology that surrounds them everyday, and how they choose to use it.
Tonight we encouraged your student to take a break from a particular technology or social media tool for one week. You may have heard the moaning and groaning already if your student has made the choice to participate. So, in the spirit of unity and empathy, we are encouraging you to do the same. For this action point, you are going to make a list of your top 5 favorite social media/technology tools (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, texting, cell phone, phone apps, etc.). Once you have your list, prioritize each of them from one to five (one being the most important/most used and five being the easiest to live without).
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. Just as your student has made a commitment to fast from a technology tool for one week, you are going to get rid of the number five on your list for the next week. (We’ve tried to make it easier by giving you the option to get rid of your number five, but feel free to get serious and axe number one on your list.) Sit down and show your student your list and then let them know which particular technology you are fasting from. In order to help you both stick to your fast, choose a reward—some sort of activity or special outing—that you and your student can look forward to once you both make it through the week without using your chosen technology. Encourage each other throughout the week and check in to see how things are going. At the end of the week—either during your reward outing or maybe during a mealtime or your morning drive to school—ask each other these questions:
1)    Was this fast from technology easier or harder than you thought it would be?
2)    What was the hardest part?
3)    Were there any unexpected benefits that came from giving up this particular technology? If so, what were they?
4)    Do you think you would be able to give up this particular technology long term? If not, could you use it on a more limited basis?
5)    Name one way that you could use this particular technology to help others or to do something good for someone else.