One of the most pressing questions schools are faced with today is ‘How can we promote the safe and responsible use of technology amongst our students?’ It’s a question that comes from schools’ commitment to protect the wellbeing of their students both inside and outside the school grounds.
As the co-founder of leading digital wellbeing agency Digital Awareness UK, I work in schools every day and see for myself how schools are continually assessing aspects of their digital learning and safeguarding strategies. Everything from the guidelines they have in place (such as device usage policies) to the ways in which they support and educate parents is scrutinised.
While this may seem like an onerous task for some, it also presents the perfect opportunity for schools to regularly take stock and work with staff, students and the wider community to determine how their various strategies need to be fine-tuned and updated to be as effective as possible.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to find balance when it comes to embracing all that technology has to offer, whilst trying to avoid critical issues such as poor sleep hygiene, distraction and decreased productivity.
To help support schools with their quest to ensure technology has a positive and productive influence on their students’ overall health and wellbeing, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and Digital Awareness UK (DAUK) have joined forces to create the Tech Control campaign.
A joint survey of independent and state schools’ pupils, undertaken by HMC and DAUK, and presented at this year’s HMC Annual Conference in Manchester, found that 50% of young people were checking mobile devices after going to bed and 25% of those respondents were spending over an hour on their devices at night. Students often tell us that they feel unproductive and lethargic as a result of excessive device usage at bedtime. This is something many adults are also able to relate to.
Using the insights gained from our annual surveys, which explore digital behavioural trends amongst young people, we work together to develop resources in the form of lesson plans and videos to provide schools with the tools, content, inspiration and structure needed to deliver relevant and engaging education. Most importantly they encourage the conscious use of technology to promote self-regulation. These resources have now been implemented in hundreds of schools, both state and independent.
The campaign launched in 2017 with Tech Control 1, where we created a video that follows a day in the life of a young girl who demonstrates how technology can be enjoyed when simple lifestyle changes are made, such as keeping devices out of the bedroom at night. This is supported with a three-part lesson plan series – ‘Be in Control’, ‘Be Productive’ and ‘Be Social’.
These resources have been delivered to thousands of students not just in the UK but around the world. Schools welcomed our positive and pragmatic approach to device-management and following the success of Tech Control 1, this month Tech Control 2 was launched.
This time a documentary-style video was created, which spotlighted three teenagers who were getting the most out of their technology – a music producer, a games developer and a social media enthusiast (pictured above), all of whom have implemented a number of smart strategies (such as digital detoxing) to ensure they are leveraging all the benefits technology has to offer.
The video is also supported by a lesson plan, which is designed to encourage students to come up with their own practical solutions to get in control of their technology.
Since we started the Tech Control campaign, it is clear that there is now greater awareness around how technology is impacting on the ways in which we socialise, work, study and sleep. It’s crucial that schools and parents – anyone who has influence over the wellbeing of our young people – are committed to giving them the tools and inspiration needed to make smart choices about how they use their technology.