CUSD Cares

Impact of Technology

November 05, 2019 Brenda Vargas Season 1 Episode 9
CUSD Cares
Impact of Technology
Show Notes Transcript

Brenda Vargas speaks with Victoria Saylor, Arizona Regional Manager for Education at Common Sense Education, about the impact technology has on our global society today and students in particular.

Brenda Vargas :

Hello parents! This is Brenda Vargas here with Victoria Saylor. I am very delighted to have her. She's from Common Sense Education. She's joining us today for our first series on a couple of podcasts that we will have. Victoria, thanks for joining us today.

Victoria Saylor:

Thank you.

Brenda Vargas :

So I know that this is a hot topic as we talk about the impact of technology and I always say that it's important to recognize all the benefits that it's given us to be able to live in this global society that we live in. But we know that too much of something is not good, but you know what, today I really want to focus about what does Common Sense Education as a nonprofit do? What do you think parents should know as they probably do a Google search and try to look for Common Sense Education. I'm sure they're looking at some of the ratings that you are most known for when it comes to movies and a bunch of other entertainment.

Victoria Saylor:

Common Sense is a nonprofit and we're dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families when it comes to providing trustworthy information and education on media and anything technology related. Our purpose is really to help parents raise digital savvy digital citizens who are critical thinkers online and who are able to use that technology and media with balance.

Brenda Vargas :

That's a mouthful.

Victoria Saylor:

Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's so worth it.

Brenda Vargas :

I think it's important for us to highlight that you're a nonprofit. How are you funded so that they understand that the good that you do is all for that student and what they need. So you're not filling your pockets at the end of the day.

Victoria Saylor:

We are a nonprofit and I'm here in Phoenix. We're locally funded by the Phoenix IDA (Industrial Development Authority) the Arizona Community Foundation and the Nina Pulliam Trust. And because of their generosity, we're able to provide outreach and education to parents and schools.

Brenda Vargas :

I t's awesome. Great, great organizations, all three of them that h elp support this wonderful cause. So we're g oing t o jump right in because we know we have a limited time on this podcast. What does research really say about the impact of technology and what it has on school aged children? If you could just give us a snippet of what you've discovered and share with parents.

Victoria Saylor:

Sure. So because technology is constantly changing, it's almost like research can't keep up. We have different research reports that we do put out and one in particular states that students that are on social media, teens especially when they're on social media, they're actually happier than not happy on social media. And that was a little surprising because as parents we hear about the cyber bullying and all of those negative effects that can come from that. But we did that study and it came out that most teens are happier on social media than not . So that's interesting, right?

Brenda Vargas :

Yeah. And it's surprising just because we hear that the negative usually is blasted and everywhere. So that was a research done by Common Sense.

Victoria Saylor:

Yes, we do research with different independent research companies, but that was one that we did on social media and it was really interesting to see that because if you think about it, kids want the same things we wanted when we were young. And it just looks different, they want to be with their friends. Often parents say you're so addicted to your phone or you're addicted to technology and kids have responded, I'm not addicted to technology, I'm addicted to my friends. So they want the same things we did when we were younger. It just looks different. They're not maybe able to be as connected in person just because of the way our world is now, or maybe our schedules are really busy so they still want to be connected and that's how they stay connected with their friends.

Brenda Vargas :

So it just looks different than what we grew up, that's for sure. You mentioned in our previous conversation before the podcast started that did you guys are supported by a Harvard study? Would you let our parents know ?

Victoria Saylor:

Yeah, so we have a K-12 curriculum and it's all research based and standards-based and the research was done with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. So just knowing that, you know that the content is going to be the absolute best and very credible.

Brenda Vargas :

I appreciate that you're sharing that because parents want to know where's the foundation and where the info is coming from. So that's important for them to know. What can parents do to keep our school aged children safe when it comes to technology? I know we could probably have our own podcast just on this topic and maybe we'll revisit it at another time.

Victoria Saylor:

Yes, well the most important thing is having those conversations from the beginning, not being afraid to talk about technology or maybe some of the negative effects that might happen because of it. Not be afraid of it. So just embrace it, know that it's there, it's not going anywhere, but you have to have those conversations from early on. There's things you can do; you can set boundaries, you can set guidelines in terms of when you're going to use technology, where you're going to use technology. You can have device free dinners, you can have device free zones, things like that. We have a family media agreement. That's a really great place to start. It's a contract that you could roll out with your kids when you give them a phone. Let's say a lot of times we just hand over these devices and we don't think about what's behind that device. We tell them don't drop it, don't get water on it. But a lot of times we forget that we need to talk about the other things, right? We need to talk about balance. We need to talk about how we're going to behave online , how much we're going to use it if we're going to allow them to take the phone to their room. Things like that. It needs to be something that you bring your kids in to the conversation with as well. You want to include them, you want to empower them by having them help you make that contract. And it doesn't look the same for every family. It can look different.

Brenda Vargas :

So I'm gonna backtrack a little bit. Because most students or most children are getting their phone on average, what has your organization seen as far as the average age or the range in which we're seeing them have a phone?

Victoria Saylor:

There are kids as young as eight getting phones, but on average I think it's around 12 years old.

Brenda Vargas :

So around that middle school, junior high time that we're seeing them. And so even if we're knee deep in it, they've had their phone for some time or maybe in a couple of years to revisit that family agreement piece could be a great conversation starter as opposed to it being an argument possibly as t oo, don't you know you're supposed to charge your phone in my room and not in your room. And maybe allowing them to be a part of that conversation, establishing what those boundaries are.

Victoria Saylor:

Yes, absolutely. Bringing them into those conversations and letting them know that they're part of the puzzle. We just released the Common Sense Census and it's about media use by tweens and teens. And in that study it says that kids are getting access to phones at a younger age. I think it said even as young as eight years old. It grew to 19% of kids that were eight years old having phones. And then it said by age 12, 69% of kids have phones. So that goes back to answering that question.

Brenda Vargas :

Well, and I think it's a security blanket for most parents. I know I'm a working mom and it was that opportunity for me to make sure that I could always get a hold of my student, even though they were walking home and they went to the neighborhood school. That was something that was that security. You can call anyone, you can call me, you have that vital tool to seek help if you need it.

Victoria Saylor:

Right. Absolutely. And that's when we say it looks different for every family. You do get the families that say, Oh, your kid has a phone and he's only 10, but you know, yes, he walks home, you know, or we're both working and we don't have a landline anymore. So if there's an emergency, we need him to have a phone and there are still flip phones out there. You don't have to give them a smart phone . That's probably something that you shouldn't do right away. You know, you're giving them the whole world when you do that. So probably starting off with just a flip phone, not a smart phone , for those younger kids, if you need to give them a phone.

Brenda Vargas :

That's a great recommendation. It's good to know that they still exist out there for initial students that need it. So we talked a little about establishing healthy boundaries with s creen t ime or within a framework that's just really supportive so that the child has some ownership. Are there any other recommendations or tools that your organization has available to parents that they could check out?

Victoria Saylor:

Are you talking about resources to help guide them?

Brenda Vargas :

Yes.

Victoria Saylor:

Okay. So we have a website, www.commonsense.org, and we have a family site and there are three tabs at the top and one says parents and one says education , the other one is for advocates. So that is dealing with all of our laws and bills that we t ry to help pass for our kids. But if you go under parents, there's a wealth of resources that are available. There are articles, there are videos, we have something called What Parents Need to Know. And let's say you want to know about a certain app or social media platform, it's right there for you.

Brenda Vargas :

Oh wow. S o it's quick, easy, accessible. It's i n parent friendly language to explain it in such a way, even if you're not tech savvy, to have a good understanding and dig deeper if you need to. Because of course we ask our own child, right? What is this about? Whatever the social media site is and we get their version right? Sometimes th ere a r e s ome missing pieces just because their world and their vocabulary is a little bit different than ours. So it's good to know that there is that resource out there for parents.

Victoria Saylor:

Well you know it's always changing so we want to stay on top of it. So you'll be able to find the latest trends in technology. Any kind of current issue going on in technology, I don't know if you remember, you know the tide pod challenge or the Momo challenge, things like that. You'll be able to find that and stay ahead of it. So maybe you're one step ahead of your kids.

Brenda Vargas :

So that's good that whatever is trending is also on there. So it's nice one stop shopping for parents because I know for parents that are trying to raise your family and juggle 10,000 different things, having that one place to go to as far as to stay up to date with what's latest and greatest. So we're in tune with where our students are and depending on if it's a middle school student versus a high school student or an elementary age student. I know that you were mentioning in our previous conversation that we can text to a certain number to receive reminders for parents. Would you share with the parents about the little text reminders that your organization does? And some samples.

Victoria Saylor:

Yes. We have a program called Tech Balance and it was designed to help parents receive text messages instead of having to go on their computer and look at our website. A lot of us are busy and some of us don't have internet access at home. So this was designed to come straight to your phone. So you text a word to a number and then you receive two text messages a week and they're very small snippets. Something as easy as try having a device free dinner tonight, or here are five tips to have more balance with technology. So it's quick, it's easy, it's at your fingertips. So that's another way parents can get our information.

Brenda Vargas :

Well, I know I need reminders all the time and I just did it. I hope this is correct. So I text KIDS to 214555. So that's supposed to get me linked to these text reminders. I have a teenager so I am just as bad probably as my teenager and bringing my phone to the dinner table. So I hope that will help remind me to not practice that behavior. So we've all been guilty at some point or another. That's for sure. What other resources would you say are probably y our either most popular or most sought after and used by parents?

Victoria Saylor:

Well, we have a blog also that's very popular. Parents can share their ideas or their opinions with other parents. We have videos that are really popular because a lot of times, maybe we don't want to read the article or we want more of a visual experience. So there are videos that go along with the same information. What parents need to know. It's either in an article or a video. We do have a ratings and reviews that a lot of parents know us from. If you want to take your children to a movie, you can always go on our website and review them and see what the reviews say. If you want to download an app or purchase a book, we have all of those ra tings a nd reviews and that's really popular with parents.

Brenda Vargas :

Yes. And it's quick and accessible.

Victoria Saylor:

And everything is because we are a nonprofit, there is no charge for any of this. You don't need a membership to access our website. You don't need a membership to access any of the videos or anything on there at all.

Brenda Vargas :

I was on recently and I didn't even have to create an account. So , one more password not to remember. So it was nice and quick and easy and accessible. And it's also in Spanish as well for our Spanish speaking parents, which is very nice.

Victoria Saylor:

We do have Common Sense Latino. And a lot of the resources that we have on there are relevant. They might not be just a direct translation. So we're very careful about making sure that they're culturally relevant to those families as well.

Brenda Vargas :

Fantastic. So we talked a little bit about the tech balance and what that looks like because technology is here to stay. I mean it makes our lives easier as much as those of us that maybe haven't embraced it quite yet hate to admit it. But there is a purpose and huge benefits. What do you think is the most crucial piece that you feel in the work that you do that parents understand in regards to this tech balance with their child?

Victoria Saylor:

I think the most important thing to remember is to keep those conversations going and have those check-ins; monitor, but let the children understand why you're monitoring them. A lot of times we just check on them, but we don't explain why we're checking on them. So then kids feel like they're in trouble. So you need to let them know, I will be checking up on you. I want to have periodic check-ins. I might review your phone. This isn't because I don't trust you. This is because I'm trying to help you be safe. You can safeguard those phones with your parental controls, your privacy settings, making sure that if you do download a new app, making sure that the settings on that app are also set to private. There are different apps out there that can help. One in particular is called OPEN DNS and another one is Circle Home Plus. Those can help filter content and turn wifi off. We also have Google's Family Link and that can help you track and control online activity, text messages and social media using your own phone. Again, if you go to our website, there are other recommendations. These are just two that I can think of right now.

Brenda Vargas :

No, that's great. I think it's important for parents to have at least an idea if this is something that interests you to go to your website and look for more information.

Victoria Saylor:

Yes. And having those guidelines starting with that family media agreement and seeing what that's gonna look like in your house, seeing what do you know balance is going to look like in your home. Are you going to have a set time every day where technology gets turned off? Are you going to only allow video games on the weekend? Are you only going to allow one hour a day during the week for any kind of media? But having those conversations and letting the kids be part of that agreement and get their input, and then maybe come to an agreement.

Brenda Vargas :

Well, they're usually more reasonable than what we think when we start to have these open dialogues.

Victoria Saylor:

Yes. When we talk about technology addiction, that's really hard to pinpoint because we need to really define what addiction is, right? And so it's hard to really tell what that is, especially when it comes to technology use in our kids because of the wide range of ages there are and development is different. So it's hard to really say for sure if kids are addicted. But one research study says that kids are expressing that they feel addicted. So whether they're truly addicted or not, we don't know. And that would take a medical diagnosis, but they are feeling that. So that's something that we as parents need to help them sort out. One way we can do that is to be a good role model. If they see us on our phones all the time or they see us on TV or on our computer a lot, that's the example we're setting. So leading by example, letting them know that there's a and place for technology. Letting them know that it's okay to be disconnected. Kids have that fear of missing out, especially the teenagers. We need the joy of missing out. We need to make sure that it's oka y. W e need that balance and they'll feel better, th e y'll sleep better. Making sure you put those devices away at least an hour before bedtime. It's shown that kids sleep better when that happens. If you're not goin g to a ll ow your children to charge their phones in their room, then maybe you shouldn't charge your phone in your room. You could have a family charging station. I kn ow a lot of parents say, I'm the adult and they'll get there one day, but that's not how their brain works. Kids want to feel that they're not being singled out. They don't have that frontal lobe connected yet.

Brenda Vargas :

Well and we are modeling the behaviors and so we have to be just really cognizant of that. So it's easy to say, and I'm one just as guilty as some out there as well, but even resorting to an old alarm clock as opposed to depending on your phone to be your alarm.

Victoria Saylor:

We actually had we actually got alarm clocks at our retreat this year at our whole staff retreat. We were actually given alarm clocks.

Brenda Vargas :

Like the old fashioned kinds are so loud you can't turn them off?

Victoria Saylor:

A lot of adults say, well I can't charge my phone in the kitchen because I use it as an alarm clock. And that's what a lot of teenagers are saying to their parents as well. So we have to be the role model for them and make sure that w e're leading by example. Same thing goes for what we post online. A lot of parents post things that maybe you wouldn't want your kids to post, so make sure that you're being a good role model. Also, when it comes to digital footprint, what we put online, right? We need to ask permission of our children, can we put this picture online? Because we also want them to grow up that way. We want them to be asking their friends, is it okay if I put this online? We have to be respectful of those boundaries as well. And so asking permission to post those photos is really important to build that trust with your kids. From the moment you post that baby picture of your child, that's the beginning of their digital footprint. So whether they like it or not, it's out there.

Brenda Vargas :

And you know what, not something I even considered to ask. But you're absolutely right. It brings a lot of ownership. Kids know that they have a choice and so they can apply that choice to everything else in life.

Victoria Saylor:

Then hopefully that shows them that this is something they should be doing as well with their friends.

Brenda Vargas :

Modeling is k ey here. So we look forward to more topics with you, Victoria. So we're go nna w rap this one up and I appreciate you joining us and just giving us a little snippet as to what Common Sense Education is. What great work you do with your nonprofit, how you help support parents so that parents can log online and find those resources and hopefully share with their friends because the information is out there. It's accessible and it's quick to find and really easy to use. So we appreciate th at.

Victoria Saylor:

You're welcome.

Brenda Vargas :

Awesome. Thank you so much.

Music:

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