Digital Detox: educating students to an healthy use of technology

Sometimes, a Digital Detox could be necessary, especially for young students. A period of time, even in classrooms, where children can focus on social and emotional skills could be also an opportunity to understand more in depth the meaning of technology and the space it should occupy in students’ life.

What does Digital Detox mean?

Digital Detox has become a common term used to refer to a period of time during which a person literally “disconnect” from all electronic and digital devices, such as smartphones, tablets and computers.
The aim is that of recovering from the amount of stress, pressure, and tension often generated by the overexposure to the digital world, focusing more on authentic social interactions and reconnecting with nature in the physical world. In fact, one of the best ways to digital detox is by going into green environments.
But a period of digital detox also helps in better understanding the importance of technology in today’s society, learning how to manage its role in a positive and useful way for our daily lives. Especially younger generations have to deeply understand that technology could be a fundamental support in their education and in other aspects of their life, but they even must be careful not to develop an addiction relationship with technological devices, pledging a right share of time to technology during the day.
In order to reach this aim, teachers and educators can play a crucial role in assisting students and pupils to increase their mindfulness through a digital detox interval. Here are three suggestions that may help.

Encourage the team work

It is always easier to reach a goal walking together on the same path. Also in spending a period of time detoxing from digital and technological devices can be less difficult if it becomes a common finish line to be crossed.
Teachers not only can support their classroom during the digital detox period, but they can also invite students to find their personal “detox buddy”, spending the time far away from technologies in pairs or in a group, enjoying “real-life activities” together. When the temptation of turning on the smartphone will knock the door, it will be easy not to answer it if someone will be there, sharing the same goal.
Students can encourage each other to keep going, they can discuss their progress and spend face-to-face moments rather than messaging through a screen.

Educate students to set achievable targets

Digital detoxes should be something a person needs to ease into. For this reason, it is important to help young students and children to select achievable goals to reach, avoiding the risk of feeling disappointed if the mission would fail.
It is a good idea to first simply set small limits for each day. For example, students can be invited to slowly eliminate the presence of their technological devices from some parts of their day, during the lunch break or during open-air activities.
This kind of “gradual detoxing” helps to eliminate digital dependencies incrementally, students feel more in control and they can focus on thinking about the usefulness of their devices, about how they interact with them, instead of focusing on the bad sensation of feeling “empty” because of withdrawal symptoms created by a total sharp interruption.

Establish some tech-free zones at school

Gamification is one of the most powerful technique to engage people, especially the youngest – so why not applying it also to the digital detox way? At school, teachers and educator can establish some tech-free zones where students must not use their devices, gaining some points every day and, on the contrary, losing them when they are not able to respect the rule. At the end of every month, students can check what their position is in the “digital detox ranking”.
Of course, to incentive the challenge, a reward system should be integrated into the game. Each month, the most digital detoxed students can be treated to some extra time for themselves – with a longer lunch break for example – or they can receive new e-books, chapters of their favourite podcasts or downloads of their favourite songs for free.

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