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Technology & Wellness: The Tech & Wellness Connection

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Thank you to the following students for their insights into the ways in which the technology they use every day makes their experience at school both easier and more difficult: Holly, Tyree, Jackson, Lawrence, Devin, Megan, Karissa, Ben, Trent, Amber, Mika, Logan, Jaylen, Sanaa, Alexis.

 

Does technology make us lazy?

Experts opinions are mixed about whether technology makes us more complacent or more productive.  While on one hand technology can be engaging and enable students to more actively seek information, it often binds students to a desk or screen which limits physical movement.  That limit of movement may have consequences later on.   Research studies show that people who sit for more than 8 hours a day have risks similar to those of people who are obese or who smoke.  

TIPS

  • Stand up!  Whether you choose to stand for long periods, or just for a bit, take a break from sitting every 30 minutes.
  • 1 hour of moderately intense physical activity counters the side effects "working the desk."  
  • Skip the office/conference room, and take walking meetings.  Audio note apps will help you keep track of your discussion.
  • Give your students movement breaks. You can keep students focused on task by having them partner up and move while they discuss their work.

Is technology too distracting?

There's been plenty of research done on the impact of technology on our attention spans.  Multi-tasking (using technology while walking, driving, learning) has a significant impact on our cognitive functions.

  1. When we are doing research, multi-tasking makes it more difficult to filter out irrelevant information and  there is significant time wasted evaluating information that is duplicative,

  2. When we are juggling unrelated tasks, switching between them slows our thinking.  In fact, research shows that adolescents who media multitask have greater deficits in daily use of three important executive functions:  working memory, shifting, and inhibition.  

  3. Obsession with or addiction to technology can make these impacts more severe.  Dr. Larry Rosen notes that obsession releases chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, while addiction releases dopamine and serotonin. Each of these can have significant effects on mental health and the ability of someone to attend to necessary tasks.  

Did you know ...adolescents who media multitask have more frequently reported problems with executive functioning in everyday life.

And...Researchers estimate that the average focus time for teens, today, is about 3 minutes.  Many of experience preoccupation with technology, even when they're not using it.  

TIPS

  • Avoid working on unrelated tasks.  
  • If you need background noise, choose instrumental music or ambient sounds.
  • Take purposeful breaks when your mind is starting to wander.  One of our students suggested one-minute planned "social media" breaks for the whole class to minimize the distraction of "wondering" what your missing out on.

Does technology make us more isolated?  

We all harbor the twin (and sometimes contradictory) needs of belonging and independence. This is especially true during the developmental years.  Technology can have some negative impacts on the healthy balance of these social needs.

  • Constant contact can encourage co-dependent behavior as students over rely on family, friends, or even Google for "the right answers."  
  • Social media, through it's like/dislike features, can promote the need for constant validation. Students may make unrealistic social comparisons based on this feedback.
  • Students may feel compelled to misrepresent themselves online.
  • Activities that rely on technology (social media, online browsing, gaming) can promote a state of flow that ignores time and removes users from regular activities. 

Did you know....adolescents on social media are more likely to like photos and comments that have been liked by peers or others who have influence on them.  This is known as "virtual peer influence."

And...gamers can enter into a state of "flow" during online gaming. Flow is characterized by immersion and time distortion.These interrupt circadian rhythms and lead to sleep deprivation.

TIPS

  • Draw student attention to the comments at the bottom of online news articles.  Discuss how peer pressure may promote bullying, encourage group think, or discourage someone from commenting.  Brainstorm and model constructive feedback.
  • Provide opportunities for students to use technology to engage with their peers, not avoid them.
  • Encourage students to broaden their online affiliations beyond the classroom, to include parents, extended family, and experts.

Are there medical risks associated with technology use?

 

Technology contributes to a number of health problems. Research shows that

  • More young adults are reporting losses typically seen in old age, including dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, itching, difficulty focusing.
  • Use of sound to isolate ourselves (think "alone time") results in significant hearing loss in certain ranges at an earlier age.
  • Posture related to laptop use results in undue strain of the neck, shoulders, back, and hips.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is common and strain to the thumb joint has increased.
  • The rise in obesity has been connected to decrease in physical play among children.

TIPS  

  • Remember 20-20-20 (take a 20 second break to look at something 20 feet away, every 20 minutes)
  • Keep screens an arms length away. Increase text size, if you need to. Adjust the top of your monitor to eye level so that you are looking down approximately 4-5 inches.
  • Reduce overhead lighting to reduce screen glare but keep front lighting similar to screen. Deluminate is a Chrome extension that inverts the illumination of a website (white to black) to ease eye strain.Screen Shade powered by F.lux, allows you to schedule your screen to dim blue light during evening hours to decrease eye-strain, fatigue and disruption of your brain’s day/night cycle.
  • Line Height Adjuster is a  simple Chrome extention that adjusts the line-height of web page text to make it easier for developing or fatigued readers to visually track what they are reading.
  • Minimize loud music to less than 90 minutes a day.  Students can listen to music at 1/2 the maximum volume all day without risk.  Snug earbuds will decrease the need for higher decibels, when students are seeking isolation from distraction. This means making sure students don't share earbuds. Offer classwide study music to eliminate the student's need to use sound isolating earbuds/headphones.
  • Use both hands when you text with your thumbs.  If you feel pain in your hands or wrists when your sleeping, you need a break from the keyboard.
  • Take time away from computers. The Adventures of Super Stretch Yoga;(K-5) website supports teacher facilitation of yoga practices in the classroom.  App iTunes ;offers a stress free introduction to 12 yoga poses and breathing techniques.
  • Eat real food.  Healthy calories help your body fight the effects of strain on your body.
  • Get out of your chair and get your students moving too.;
  • Stay hydrated. Waterlogged is an app that reminds and helps you track personal hydration. Find it on iTunes or Google Play Encourage students to keep a bottle of water handy (but tucked away from their device)

What is the impact of technology on our mental health?

Technology has been linked to increased incidents of depression and some displays of narcissism. Research has correlated these effects to a variety of behaviors in our hyper connected social media environment:  

  • Seeking constant validation through social media feedback.
  • Feeling loneliness due to the superficial nature of many online "friendships."
  • Experiencing lack of confidence due to constant availability of adult advocates.
  • Expecting instant gratification when looking for answers to problems. 
  • Practicing grandiosity, entitlement, or exploitive behaviors for attention.

And some practices impact both physical and mental health. Fourty-four percent of cell phone users sleep with their phone next to them and 95% of cellphone/tablet users report using these devices immediately prior to sleep.  Noise disruptions and articifial light suppresses natural melatonin poduction, shifting circadian rhythms and impacting mood.  

Did you know....research has shown that adolescents who are addicted to the internet exhibit structural changes to the brain that may result in decreased cognitive control. 

TIPS

  • Get enough sleep.  Sleep deprivation exacerbates mood disorders.
  • Breath. Mindful breathing takes your attention away from stress. What about screen-based breathing apps? Okay, but don't always swap one screen for another.
  • Make use of organizational tools to free up time to get away from your computer.
  • Make contact with friends...in person!
  • The LearnStorm program, from Khan Academy,  is free and offers guided lessons focus on building motivation and confidence.
  • Share resources with your students! Check out
    • AMAZE videos offer thoughtful answers to kids' questions about puberty.
    • Center for Young Women's Health (website) maturely covers difficult physical and mental health issues.
    • Sex, Etc. (website) offers reliable and unbiased information for teens.
    • Go Ask Alice! (website), managed by health professionals at Columbia University, offers information on tough health topics addressed in a teen relatable voice.
    • The Teen Hotlines app interfaces with the Teen Health & Wellness databases available at MGHS and GDS.  

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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