Digital Wellness In Your K-12 School District

Although we’re decades into the digital age, many school districts are still just broaching the topic of digital wellness. Yet, with classrooms adopting new technologies all the time, it’s never been more relevant.

In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of digital wellness, including why it’s important and what your school district can do to ensure students have a healthy relationship with technology.

What is digital wellness?

Digital wellness, also known as digital health and well-being, is the pursuit of an intentional and healthy relationship with technology. It’s an especially relevant topic for today’s K-12 school districts, which are implementing innovative technologies into the learning environment and educating the first generation of digitally native students.

According to Ohio State University, a digitally well person considers the impact of their virtual presence and use of technology on their overall health and well-being. They take steps to create sustainable digital habits that support their values, goals, community, and safety.

To that last point, digital wellness and online safety go hand in hand. Why? Because sometimes a person’s relationship with digital technology can put their physical or mental health at risk.

For example, it’s not uncommon for a young person to purposefully post demeaning comments or false rumors about themselves online. This is what thought leaders refer to as “digital self-harm.”

There are many factors that could lead someone to self-harm, but an overactive digital footprint is certainly a notable contributor. In fact, according to researchers, greater time spent on social media promotes self-harm behavior and suicidal ideation in vulnerable adolescents.

What does digital wellness look like?

Broadly speaking, the pursuit of healthy digital habits is all about making mindful decisions regarding your relationship with digital media. Some of these decisions may be focused on restricting technology use and mitigating its impacts, whereas others are about navigating life in the digital world.

Common digital wellness practices include limiting screen time, wearing blue-light glasses to alleviate eye strain, and muting notifications to prevent constant interruption. Aside from preventative measures, it can also include maintaining healthy habits such as regular physical activity, nutrition, and sleep.

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Why is digital wellness important?

24/7 connectivity is one of the defining issues of our time. As such, many organizations like the Digital Wellness Institute and Boston Children’s Digital Wellness Lab have begun researching and developing solutions to help people adopt healthy behavior.

However, digital wellness is still too often thought of in the context of enterprise use cases — employee productivity, engagement, burnout, etc. With millions of kids browsing the internet at such a young age, it’s time to put digital health and well-being at the forefront of K-12 learning.

Why? Well, consider what might happen if students don’t develop a healthy relationship with digital media:

  • Mental health problems: Researchers say prolonged technology use puts you at greater risk of developing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. It can also impact emotional wellness by way of mood swings, feelings of loneliness, or negative self-perception. Of course, cyberbullying and online harassment can also lead from bad to worse.
  • Reduced attention span: Apps, notifications, emails, ads, — the list goes on. Digital tools are constantly competing for attention, making it difficult for young people to focus on just one task at a time. This not only complicates learning, but also creates a problem that could last well into adulthood.
  • Computer vision syndrome: According to the American Optometric Association, using digital devices for too long can result in a type of eye strain called computer vision syndrome. More than just an annoyance, it leads to physical health problems like headaches, dry eyes, and blurry vision.
  • Physical wellness problems: Too much screen time eventually takes its toll on the body. In fact, a lack of physical activity seriously threatens a young person’s health, increasing the risk of developing high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, and other conditions.

So, why practice digital wellness? Because, by promoting mindfulness and healthy habits, you can help your students avoid these negative outcomes altogether. Best of all, they might even be better off in the long haul.

Strengthening digital health allows a young person to understand their relationship to technology — and with that, there comes tangible benefits. Knowing how to navigate digital life can help them focus on academics, improve their self-image, and even keep them happy and healthy.

[FREE WEBINAR] Student Security, Safety & CIPA Compliance in the Browser With Content Filter by ManagedMethods >> REGISTER HERE!

Promoting digital wellness inside and outside the classroom

Building healthy behavior isn’t as simple as committing your students to a digital detox. However, there are some easy steps you can take to get the ball rolling.

Here are a few tips for getting started:

1. Infuse digital health with social emotional learning (SEL)

Schools often teach SEL or digital citizenship separately, but did you know they’re even more powerful in combination? Although they’re not interchangeable, many of SEL’s lessons can help kids use their screen time more effectively.

In short, social emotional learning is all about self-control, empathy, and interpersonal skills. These competencies are key to responsible decision-making, communication, and collaboration in the digital world. Combining SEL with digital wellness is a great way to help them practice these abilities in their everyday lives.

Plus, you don’t have to start from scratch. Thanks to Common Sense Education, you can access SEL in Digital Life — a collection of resources and lessons addressing how technology impacts social and emotional well-being.

2. Teach the basics of online safety

It’s hard to develop the right habits if you don’t know best practices. So, demonstrate healthy behavior and help your students understand the basic tenets of media literacy. For example, this might include:

  • Basic password hygiene
  • How to spot and avoid phishing scams
  • What types of personal data aren’t meant to be shared with others
  • How to change privacy settings on social media platforms
  • Why strangers can’t be trusted online

3. Block access to classroom distractions

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires school districts to prevent underage children from accessing obscene, harmful, or inappropriate content online. To do this, schools implement content filtering software.

But web filtering is about much more than CIPA compliance. It’s also a powerful tool for promoting and ensuring digital wellness, especially on school devices. With a solution like Content Filter by ManagedMethods, you can block access to social media, YouTube, online gaming sites, and any other potential distraction.

Moreover, with built-in monitoring capabilities, Content Filter notifies you if students attempt to access dangerous websites, such as those related to sex, violence, or self-harm. It also features granular reporting tools that allow you to identify which device and student the incident corresponds to, helping you to decide the most appropriate response.

Want to promote digital wellness across your school district? Request a free demo of Content Filter today.

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