Taking a step back from social media

Adults can model behaviors that help youth see ways to step away from technology.

How our society approaches technology has vastly changed over the past decade, and more people are becoming connected all the time. According to the 2015 Pew Research, 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. We all know that technolgy is not going anywhere; however, our technology-driven lives can harm our ability to focus. Adults can model a few behaviors that will show youth how to step away from technology at times.

First, create a set of guidelines of when it is appropriate and inappropriate to be connected to technology. In a youth programming setting, you may want to create guidelines of when and when not youth can use their personal technology during meetings or educational programming. In a family setting, it could be agreed on that cell phones will not be used during meal time. Adults must also follow these guidelines so youth see the importance of stepping away from technology in certain settings. Common Sense Media has created some sample family media contracts that might be helpful in creating guidelines.

Another behavior that adults can model for youth is to turn your phone to silent and put it face down. Everyone has been in a setting where someone’s phone starts ringing at the worst possible moment or someone is constantly checking their phone. Adults need to show youth the settings where they need to put their phone on silent and face down. In addition, adults can model the idea of taking technology breaks by letting youth see them put their phone away for a certain amount of time or until a task is completed.

Sometimes turning your phone to silent or taking a break isn’t enough to break the temptation of being connected, so adults should also model getting some physical distance from it. Show youth that it is OK and appropriate to leave technology in another room or in a draw while trying to finish a task. Michigan State University Extension suggests adults try showing youth while paying their monthly bills that they are going to leave their phone in another room so they are not distracted by the different notifications.

When positive behavior is modeled for others by those in authority, it can send powerful messages. Building a community that expects positive behavior when using technology is not built on rules, but on relationships and what is seen from others. When youth interact with adults who demonstrate and model positive technology usage, they are more likely to engage in positive usage.

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