Today, we live in a world overflowing with digital media and technology. All of us -- adults and kids -- have constant access to real-time information from around the globe. But do the benefits of being ever-connected also come with risks to our mental health? It's an important question to ask -- especially for our kids. Our goal during this month is to give students the space to reflect on their own media use. Plus, they'll get the tools they need to think critically about how digital media affects our communities and society overall.
To support students in developing an internal sense of "media balance," we need to prompt students to reflect on the different feelings and emotions that arise when they engage in activities that involve digital media (streaming TV shows, playing online games, and so on). Some students may need additional support and practice in recognizing and interpreting these emotions. For example, prolonged social media use may result in a mix of positive and negative emotions. Students will need to think through these different emotional reactions to eventually draw conclusions about what "balanced" use means for them.
We steer clear of the term "addiction" in reference to device or digital media use. While we know that kids and adults are using their devices a lot -- and research even tells us they feel "addicted" -- there's no official diagnosis for "device addiction" or consensus around what this phrase means. Moreover, the line between healthy and harmful use varies person to person and context to context (with evidence showing that already vulnerable teens, for instance, are more likely to exhibit unhealthy use of media), and research shows both positive and negative impacts of everything from social media to games. We encourage you to focus on agency, not addiction, and quality time, not screen time. This means encouraging students to reflect on their own media diets and to develop individual plans for healthy media balance that consider both how media contributes productively and unproductively to their lives and relationships, and to grow the former and reduce the latter.