Thursday, 28 August 2014

Growing Up Digital: Resources for Families

We recently hosted another edition of our annual Growing Up Digital night for grade 6 families and grade 7 and 8 families new to UWCSEA East. The evening's primary purpose is to provide space and time to begin the important conversations between Middle School students and their parents around how and when digital technology is used at home. We recognize that putting a device -- a Macbook Air -- in the hands of a (pre) teen can often change the dynamics of the home. While it's impossible (and, some might argue, inappropriate) for us to give blanket "digital rules" for every family, we do think it's crucial for each family to have conversations to determine parameters and agreements for technology and media in the home. Growing Up Digital night acts as a prompt to begin these discussions, guided by our leadership team and Digital Literacy Coaches, who can act as both facilitators and consultants with families.

Slides from the evening are below. You'll note that a significant part of the evening -- nearly 30 minutes -- was for active discussion between parents and children around the Family Media Agreement.

As promised, we have for you a list of resources to help you navigate your conversations about Growing Up Digital in your family. We've roughly divided these into three categories, but you'll note that there is a lot of overlap between them.

Time Management Tools

SelfControl is an app for Mac OSX that you can set to block what you determine to be distracting websites. You can block them for a certain period of time, or forever. 

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension you can use similarly to SelfControl, but just for sites you access in your Chrome browser. It's highly customizable -- you can set it to kick in at the same times every day, for example -- and easy to set up. However, keep in mind it is only for one specific browser. 

RescueTime is an app that installs on your Mac or mobile device, and it tracks all of the time you spend on every app or website. It automatically determines standard "productivity" ratings for each site and app, but you can customize this in a very granular way. While RescueTime does not block or limit any apps or sites, it's an excellent tool to use to track how you are actually using your digital time. Each week it sends you a report with detailed infographics which you can view by the day, week, or month. 

Parental Controls exist in the System Preferences panel of your Mac. You may want to consider setting up a separate "study buddy" account on your Mac that has Parental Controls enabled. 

The Tomato Timer is a web-based tool based on the Pomodoro Technique. (There are several other tools and apps available based on this technique -- a quick search will turn up hundreds of hits!) Set the timer and while it is running (25 min), dedicate your time to focus on a specific task. When the timer finishes, take a break! Check your Facebook, go for a walk, get a drink, and then get back to work. 

Tips for managing media at home

Common Sense Media is one of our favorite organizations, and they have several ideas to help you manage devices at home, from setting screen limits to helping kids use Facebook (or not) for homework. On a related note, our colleagues at Dover have written a piece about how multi-tasking and learning don't mix very well. 

For families who would like to set up filters, there are a couple of solid options. Norton Family allows you to set filters on specific computers and other devices. If you'd like something that isn't device-specific but rather filters all traffic into the home, Starhub and SingTel both offer "safe surfing" options, though there is a small monthly fee for these services. 

School policies

You and your child signed several forms before we allowed you to take that laptop home. If you'd like to review the official policies and protocols for use of College technology, on and off campus, our College iLearn page has all the paperwork you need. 

We're here to help! Please feel free to email us or stop by our desks in C319. 

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