KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In just a few weeks, a handful of school districts will be getting ready to reopen again, some starting out strictly online.
With the continued method of virtual learning to decrease the spread of COVID-19, and the constant use of scrolling through social media, constant connection nto the online world, can cause a disconnect to reality.
It's a new process of learning for districts as they start their year out with virtual teaching and learning.
"Mental health with screen time and with digital socialization is very, very important. You know, one of the things that's very interesting about screen time, just as an example right now, you and I cannot make eye contact right now, which means that we are having to relearn certain social cues that we have been socialized to understand," KCPS Technology Director, Joe Phillips said.
"The other thing is when you're meeting like we are right now, you see yourself so that's more information that your brain is trying to process that is not used to processing, so it can add a lot of mental fatigue or stress and fatigue," he said.
Joe Phillips is the technology director at the Kansas City Public Schools, one of the districts starting out 100 percent online, due to the pandemic.
Phillips stresses the importance of technology, especially with today's events and for the future.
"We're kind of past the point in our society and in our world where technology and technology skills can be afforded to be something you don't have," Phillips said.
"So if you want to look at our students and look at really helping them build futures and be competitive in the job market, they have to learn these things and they have to have access to these things or they just won't be competitive," he said.
In an effort to increase technology skills, but not be overwhelmed with the amount of screen time students are consuming, Phillips shared few tips he does with his family, when it comes to limiting screen time and not feeling overwhelmed with technology:
1. Take breaks every hour or two
"Screen time is very much like driving across country so you're taking in a lot of information," Phillips said. "So if you think about trying to drive cross country with your kids too, you can't go more than a couple of hours before they need to get out and stretch, and you've got to do the same thing for your kids."
2. Set time limits for nonwork and noneducational screen time.
"I think of screen time the same way you might think about food or eating," Phillips said. "We all need food, but there you know there's bad food. And then you can overheat, even with good food. And so it's a matter of really trying to limit the nonproductive screen time. That can be television, going through your social media."
3. No screens in bed.
"That should be that time that you're really getting ready to wind down and go to sleep," Phillips said. "Screens, especially those that are emitting blue light can really mess with that so Circadian Rhythm."
Phillips says one way they do that is not allowing chargers in the bedroom.
4. Not scrolling through your phone or computer when you're bored.
"It's really easy to grab a screen when you're bored," Phillips said. "You have games on there you have social interaction on there, you have news and media on there. And it's okay to do that but you want to realize that you're doing that you don't want to do it too much."
5. Set time expectations.
"I think of that kind of like exercising," Phillips said. "We want to get a certain amount of time in with your screen, and then you want to limit that. And then you want to do other things."
He also suggests putting devices away when gathering for dinner.
"We want to make sure we're spending that time together and have any human interaction," Phillips said.
In an effort to combat technology fatigue, he urges families to look at technology as nothing more than a tool.
"The first thing is don't think of a computer as the teacher," Phillips said. "It is just a tool to be used for teaching and like any tool it can be overused. And if you use it too much, it'll weaken your muscles and so you want to make sure that you're still maintaining life without devices."
KCPS uses software on the devices that's able to monitor a number of different things.
"It'll tell us you know who's logging in, what they're going to, and that kind of thing," Phillips said. "But we also have some really great reports that will show how much educational use, how much of this is deep learning, how much of this entertainment, how much of this games, who's not logging in, and then what we've done here in our district is built in some intervention."
Phillips says software called Safety Check is also used to monitor students mental health.
"If we look for things especially big warning signs, we have that software that alerts us," Phillips said. "And that will go to our mental health providers who are social workers and that kind of thing as well, so that they can reach out. And we had that in place before COVID but we've really seen the need for it after COVID as students are becoming more and more isolated."
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