Did you wear Digital Sunsreen today?

Yesterday’s post was a bit of brain-dump. I hate doing that, but twenty-four hours later, it feels good to have let a monster run free across the metaverse.

I think I’ll do more work around the idea of digital sunscreen, as I’m welded onto the idea that managing screen-time isn’t easy, but distraction is abundant. I’m hoping to raise awareness among the teacher and parent community – those with concerns about screen-time, especially towards social media and games. To that end, I think I’ll actively promote two hours a day (school+home) is an essential contract between parents and teachers.

I’ll let others continue their good work towards overall digital diet and the quality of screen-time. I think we all want the same thing – children who are connected to the world around them, having both the emotional intelligence and media management skills to be happy, mindful and be the best they can be. No tall order, given the vile media culture of outrage, fear, hate, and lies which bombard news broadcasts and social streams.

Two hours a day is going to sound ridiculous to kids and adults alike – but a decade ago, most kids didn’t get two hours a week in school computer lab. Fifteen years ago, they’d be sharing the family computer with siblings and parents, using dial-up and waiting to use MSN Messenger. It’s not so long ago that watching a movie was a day’s download – seed people seed! and no one had more than 2mpbs for the whole home or school. In short, not much used to happen in 2 hours – yet today, we’ve turned up the dial and can watch 2 hours of UHD movie’s via Netflix instantly while the kids are playing Overwatch.

Let us not forget, that most school Internet use is allowed though a risk-to-us mentality and is dominated by the commercial agendas and belief of a few mega-brands – Apple, Google, and Microsoft. The ‘social stream’ of edumedia is seduced and propositioned by brands (using teacher and ex-teachers) all the time – as no one has to declare their interests nor account for their actions later – but I suspect one day, parents will take legal action over the time a teacher ‘forced’ a child to spend on a computer which led to them doing something … addictive, violent or otherwise. No one’s using sunscreen – they are still manning ‘the great firewall’ in the dumb pursuit of ‘content’ being the monster under the bed.

However, the speed of the Internet is not a sign we can make sense of the media streams we can access. It’s faster, but we are not. In fact, as I said yesterday, the faster it gets, the bigger the deficit of attention is – and the less likely we are to cope with what is happening around us. Take US Politics – is it just me, or are kids not talking about it at school? Since when did Aussie kids do that – do they care, are then activating their global citizenship – or is Trump simply another ridiculous meme – among the clowns, Pokemons and gorillas? How much of that two hours a day should be allocated to Trump’s latest gaff? How do kids discover it? We simply don’t know because we don’t know much about the content that kids see – let alone engage with. As teachers, we can’t reasonably claim to be experts … but we can help them develop the kind of intelligence and competencies that allow them to manage and select the media they engage with – better than we are.

We simply don’t know much about the environments and emotions that trigger that thumb to swipe across the screen. That seems amazing, given the data streams and users, however, the research is very limited. We suspect a lot, but we know little. That’s why I’m saying, be cautious – think about what we lose every time we add another hour of exposure – are they 100% focused for that hour – Had they focused the last hour? – Do you even know what they used or saw in the lesson before yours? How much time has Amy spent online today? … The current mentality is to simply ban or take the phone away.

As teachers, we can’t reasonably claim to be experts or timekeepers in today’s media environment … but teachers can help them develop the kind of intelligence and competencies that allow them to manage and select the media they engage with – better than we are doing.

The first step is to think long and hard about our own behaviour online … and that of those we ‘see’ – are they modelling a two-hour exposure … or pervasive eduaddicts?