Recently I was reading through a brochure published by Woodburn Press on the subject of internet and social media. According to this publication, in their review of recent polls and studies: 

• Nearly 80 percent of teens say they check their phones hourly and over 70 percent say they feel the need to immediately respond to texts and social networking messages. 

• Today’s teens spend, on average, more than nine hours a day consuming media – TV, music, web, video games.

• 50 percent of teens say they feel addicted to their mobile devices.

• Approximately 25 percent of all driving accidents involve texting and driving. 

The bottom line: our youth are spending more and more time using technology, and it has good and not-so-good effects. 

The benefits of technology include efficient ways to communicate, easy access to information, increased social connections, a means of expression, a sense of security and a form of entertainment, to name a few. The unintended consequences include inappropriate information, too captivating, inaccurate information and the illusion of connection. 

Because the explosion of technology and social media is fairly recent, no one really knows the effect it is having on the development of children. However, we are beginning to see some trends in school aged children such as: shorter attention spans, fewer interpersonal skills, negative self-images and less interest in activities that aren’t incredibly engaging. 

In our district, we are spending more time than ever before talking with and teaching students about the appropriate uses of technology. Our students engage in a special class focused on technology, K-6. We are working to provide structure and set limits. For instance, students in K-8th grade are expected (if they have their own phone) to keep it in their bookbag while at school. Our 9th-12th graders put aside their phones during instructional class time so they can focus on the teaching and learning. 

Often parents ask what they can do to support their child’s positive use of technology. Some ideas: monitoring use, setting times to unplug – like dinner, bedtime, etc., and talking to your children that when using technology almost everything is permanent and can be accessed or recovered by others. 

Things sure have changed since I was in high school many, many years ago. Technology isn’t inherently good or bad or healthy or unhealthy. It is what we make of it. Together if we set limits, provide guidance and keep the lines of communication open our children can grow up to be responsible and healthy consumers of technology.

All of us involved in the Winterset School District work daily to maximize areas of strength and address areas of need. As we work to continuously improve, we value your input. If you have feedback or ideas, do not hesitate to contact me. My e-mail is smeade@winterset.k12.ia.us or I can be reached at 515-462-2718. Our Twitter accounts are @WintersetSchool and

@WintersetHusky; our Facebook account is Winterset Community Schools.