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National Day of Unplugging
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We are not social media users so much as social media products. Our attention (and by extension, our time), and our actions (likes, click-through patterns, etc.) are the product offered to the real customers – company advertisers.
We are the thing being sold. Our kids need support making informed decisions with screen use, which means helping them stay aware of the trade-offs of digital media. When we plug into screens, we get all kinds of benefits – accessibility, long-distance connection, education, entertainment. But there’s also a hidden cost that our generation wasn’t taught to account for – this stuff is designed to keep us dependent on the tech to the detriment of our health and relationships.
Sorta feels like the singularity is already here? To keep us clicking through, posting, and checking our notifications, we’ve got to stay in the shallows and keep consuming, sharing, and posting to prove we’re still relevant. The algorithms that keep us dependent leave us feeling burned out but unsatisfied, and we end up falling into a ditch of polarizing conspiracy theories.
Screens can be great! I just wish we had better digital literacy stories, and the whole thing was more transparent and protective for younger kids who fall into this stuff without consent.
When is it?
- Annually on March 5th
- How screens may affect a kid’s brain development (best for ages 7+)
- Screen time: how much is too much? (best for ages 9+)
Discuss: How do we use screens?
- How much of our awake time is spent on screens?
- Which screen use helps us?
- Which hurts?
- Which are a mix?
Discuss: How apps are designed to keep us hooked
Which human vulnerabilities do our favorite apps take advantage of? Signs kids can watch out for:
- Variable rewards (the slot machine effect): When the chance of a reward gets us excited to stick around and try again.
- The need to be seen: How does this app give us the illusion that we’re being better understood by others?
- The need to connect: How does this app give us shallow ways to connect with others, but distract us from spending deep quality time and attention with people we care about?
- The need to reciprocate: When do we feel like we have to respond, click, or take an action to be polite?
- The fear of missing out: If we unplugged for a day or a week, what are we worried we’ll miss out on? What are we worried could happen?
- The compulsion to compare: When are we watching others to measure ourselves against them?
- The need for distraction: How are we feeling right before we pick up our screens? Are we feeling bored, tired, anxious, or some other discomfort that we’re avoiding processing in a healthier way?
Discuss: When unplugging isn’t about accessibility, but dependency:
- What things can we get from screens that we can’t get from outside?
- What things can we get from outside that we can’t get from screens?
- Why do we need to balance outside time with screen time?
More resources to dig deeper:
- Dismantling the Attention Economy: Kids Stories on Unplugging
- Stories for a nature-based classroom
- Post-Consumerism Stories For Kids
- Inclusive Kids Books About STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics
- How to become a better accomplice by getting off social media
- For adults: Living with the Bear (article)