Teaching Disciplined Digital Use – Part III of Cyber Wellness


On November 10th, 2017 I attended a Digital Literacy Conference which addressed concerns about the powerful effect of the Media and Digital Technology on our youth.  The following is a continuation of two former posts:  Media’s Influence on Youth – Part I of Cyber Wellness and Gender Stereotyping – Part II of Cyber Wellness.

Media Literacy

Two speakers at this conference, Benjamin Petty, the Superintendent at BCLUM and GMG Community School Districts who serves on the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and Dr. Yuhyun Park, PhD, of the DQ Institute in Singapore, stressed the need for teaching critical thinking and risk management skills to our children to enable them to thrive in the digital world.  In Singapore, they recognized this need early on and have instituted in their schools four hours of media literacy per year starting at 8 years of age.  The title of two such workshops reflect some of the content addressed: “Preventing Pathological use of the Internet” and “Managing Media Multitasking and Academic Productivity”.  These programs teach students how to analyze a game, for instance, to be aware of how it manipulates them, and how to distinguish between good content and false content.  To learn more go to DQ Institute.

Disciplined Digital Use

The last speaker was Dr. David Walsh, PhD., an award-winning psychologist who founded “Mind Positive Parenting” which translates “cutting edge brain science to everyday practice for parents and teachers.”  He has written ten books, his latest is Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids.  Dr. Walsh explained how the “seeking brain” is affected by technology.  He described how technology affects a child’s attention, social skills, and self-control.  He offered some strategies for intelligent and disciplined digital use.  He and other speakers mentioned having a “screen free zone” in the home, such as the dinner table.  Or the parents designating a “digital free time” in the home, like one hour before bedtime.  

Setting Limits

Dr. Walsh has counseled hundreds of parents who feel that their child’s compulsive overuse of technology is out of their control. These parents recognize the strong-hold that the digital world has on their child and are fearful of addictive behaviors, cyber bullying, sexting, lower grades and lack of face-to-face social skills. Dr. Walsh counsels parents to set limits at an early age and to teach and model healthy habits such as self-regulation, and focusing on one task at a time (not multitasking).

Lastly, Dr. Walsh stressed the importance of our individual digital footprint.  With every click we communicate information about us.  That information is public, and we need to teach our children that their individual digital footprint will be looked at by colleges and potential employers. Dr. Walsh shared the following video that counsels parents on what they can do to teach and model Digital Discipline. “The Parent Network: Social Media and Your Kids – Managing Excessive Use” on Youtube or at MediaSmarts .

As for my part, I know that we all want our children and grandchildren to reach their potential and to be cognizant of any roadblocks that may threaten their future quality of life. Helping our children learn to use digital technology as a tool in their life and yet maintain control of it is now a necessity in the digital environment in which we live today. 

How does your family find balance between screen time and real life? We’d love to hear your ideas. 

About the author

Cyber Wellness Omaha

Julie Brannaman, M.A., Retired High School Spanish Teacher.  Julie taught high school Spanish for 30 years and served as World Language Department Head for 20 years.  Julie is now the proud grandmother of her two grandchildren who reside in Omaha.