Role modeling technology usage

Adults can model behaviors that help youth create a balanced approach to using technology.

Technology has become more mobile and often seems to be indispensable. According to Common Sense Media, teens are spending almost nine hours a day using media. In addition, 2015 Pew Research states 67 percent of cell phone owners are checking their phone for messages, alerts or calls even when they don’t see their phone ring or vibrate. Therefore, adults should help youth understand the importance of creating a balanced approach when using technology. Youth see parents, 4-H leaders, mentors, coaches and teachers as role models, so it is important for adults to be aware of their own technology habits. When youth see adults engaging in technology 24/7, they are more likely to adopt similar technology habits. We all know technology is not going anywhere; however, adults should be modeling a balanced approach to using technology.

Adults should showcase how they are creating balanced usage of technology. Start out by simply thinking about how and when you use technology. Do you turn off different types of technology at certain times? Have you established any media-free times in your life? This could be at mealtimes, family time, a set amount of time before going to bed, etc. Michigan State University Extension recommends all adults who work with youth take some time to consider when and how they engage with technology to help create a balanced approach.

The first way to move towards a balanced approach is to role model ways to self-regulate your usage of technology. Start by setting the specific boundaries of when you will be stepping away or limiting your technology usage. For example, if you know the alerts and notifications on your cell phone are tempting while driving, then turn the sound off and put your phone in a place where you won’t be tempted to grab it. Consider bringing a pad of paper to take notes at a meeting instead of having a laptop, tablet or cell phone to take notes. Take a few minutes to create some boundaries around how you will use technology.

Finally, model healthy face-to-face conversations and how to interact with another person. Technology allows us to stay connected with people, but it is important to still develop and nurture relationships with face-to-face conversations. These conversations allow youth to pick up on social cues that get lost in texting, email and other forms of online conversation. Adults should engage in face-to-face conversation with youth to help them see why they are important and help them learn about times when conversation needs to happen in person instead of through technology.

When adults model a balanced approach to technology use, it can be extremely helpful for youth. If you are looking for additional information on this topic, another helpful article is “Taking a step back from social media” by MSU Extension.

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