York School News

Digital Citizenship at the Junior School

A Message from Lara Jensen, Junior School Technology & Integration Co-ordinator
This fall I have been working to teach coding (more classes will be added in January), utilize the STEAM resources we have, help students be more independent with their Seesaw reflections and discuss digital citizenship whenever possible. Students are always happy when I come to their classes because it means they will be able to use their devices in creative ways.

Even as adults, the draw of a digital device is strong! We can use our computers, mobile devices, gaming systems and voice assistants for many positive reasons. Some examples of positive device usage includes connecting with friends and family, accessing a wealth of information, creating media and even controlling other objects through coding. Yet, as we learned from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. 

Mediasmarts defines digital citizenship as the ability to “navigate digital environments in a way that's safe and responsible and to actively and respectfully engage in these spaces.” Children need our support to learn to do this. The regulatory part of their brain that controls impulsive behaviours, concentration, empathy and appropriate interactions with others (the prefrontal cortex) isn’t fully developed until about the age of 25. With an extended break from school approaching, and without their fully-formed prefrontal cortexes, I encourage you to help your child(ren) continue to foster good digital citizenship skills during this time. 

Minimize Screen Time
  • Pediatric organizations recommend limiting screen time (including videos and television) for children of all ages in order to reduce sedentary behaviours and improve sleep.

  • Focus on using devices to communicate with family or use high-quality educational platforms. This is particularly true for children under the age of 5 because studies suggest that very young children learn more from interactions with real-live humans vs. those on a screen.

  • Be clear about where and when devices may be used in your home and follow the same rules yourself (see the additional resources at the end of this for links and templates)

  • Be clear about the sites and software you are comfortable with your child(ren) using.

  • Find ways to manage your home wifi so that you can control or turn it off for your children, if desired.

Mitigate Risks
  • As much as possible, use devices in a supervised environment. We know that most problems happen when children are alone with technology and without the nearby presence of adults.

  • Charge devices in central locations (not in bedrooms) so that they are less tempting in the middle of the night.

  • Be aware that most platforms have a minimum age of 13 to create an account (sometimes even 18 years old). Talk with your children about only signing up after speaking with you.

  • Search the Terms and Conditions for minimum ages of all platforms. Always sign up together and only for apps/ platforms that you are comfortable with your child(ren) using.

  • Limit the apps and platforms accessible on your home devices, if desired.

Be Mindful
  • Talk with your child(ren) about what they are doing on their devices (even if it doesn’t make sense to you). Learn the game they are playing, see if/ how they can communicate with others, etc. Your interest in learning their game or platform will make talking about it easier.

  • Encourage conversation while using devices (yes, even during movies) to manage emotions, share concerns, create shared enjoyment.

  • Know that if a platform is free then data about the user is likely what benefits the company. Only allow necessary cookies and adjust privacy settings to be as limited as possible.

Model Healthy Usage
  • Share what you do with your devices as it is happening. For example, don’t just look up a location on a map, say what you are doing so those around you know that you are not scrolling through Instagram.

  • As you are using devices or media, share age-appropriate examples of how what you see makes you feel and what you do when this happens. For example, if you are happy to see a picture of something then share why, if you think something is unkind then share what you are doing about it. This gives explicit information about what to do and also opens up conversation.

  • Use devices actively rather than passively. Making movies, writing a book, coding something or even playing a game is more creative and requires more thinking and organization skills than scrolling through social media or silently watching a movie.

  • Schedule activities that do not centre around screens

There are many resources available to support you to manage technology at home. Here are some good ones - please let me know of others that you like.

Additional Resources that Provide Guidance for Parents
Addressing the challenges of parenting, teaching and learning in this digital age requires a collaborative approach. I look forward to working together to promote responsible technology use, provide support and resources and to share ideas.

About the York School

The York School is a gender-inclusive JK to Grade 12 independent school located in the heart of Toronto. The York School was founded in 1965 and is the first English speaking school in Canada accredited to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) from junior kindergarten (JK) to university entrance. As an IB World School, The York School's motto is Experience Teaches.

Contact Us

Junior School (Grades JK-5) 1639 Yonge Street Toronto, Ontario M4T 2W6 
Middle School (Grades 6-8) & Senior School (Grades 9-12) 1320 Yonge Street Toronto, Ontario M4T 1X2 | Tel: 416.926.1325
Mailing address: 1320 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario M4T 1X2
Junior School: 1639attendance@yorkschool.com
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