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Fontichiaro: Exploring digital wellness with kids and parents

“Guest on Michigan Minds podcast. Clinical Professor Kristin Fontichiaro. ‘Exploring Digital Wellness With Kids and Parents.’ UMSI.”

Wednesday, 05/11/2022

Kristin Fontichiaro, clinical professor at the U-M School of Information, and Liz Kolb, clinical associate professor at the U-M School of Education, joined the Michigan Minds podcast to share insight on the U-M Digital Wellness Symposium. The event, which will be held virtually on Saturday, May 14, welcomes 6-8th grade children and their parents or caregivers to learn and talk about healthy online behaviors. 

Kolb explains that the Digital Wellness Symposium sprouted from the idea that children in middle school enjoy discussing what they’re doing online when the environment feels safe and non-judgmental. This event provides a space where students and their caregivers can have open conversations about healthy online behavior and ask questions about social media platform use. She comments on why the middle school age group was chosen as the key audience for this discussion, explaining that the average age for children to receive their own personal phone is 10-13 years old. 

“It’s a wonderful time to start having these conversations and for them to start recognizing the permanency of their digital identity and the choices that they’re making online. Once you get to high school, it’s not that it’s too late, but it’s that you’re having to be a little more reactive,” Kolb says.

Fontichiaro expands on the importance of parents and caregivers having conversations about digital wellness and social media use with their children, outlining the various lessons that parents can learn about these technologies as well. She explains that the pandemic caused many students to have to create online accounts for school, and it’s critical to take a step back and learn how to properly use online profiles and resources. 

“It’s important to recognize that, in many ways, parents are first generation citizens of the internet themselves. So sometimes what we find when we have conversations like this is that on one level it’s about children’s healthy digital behavior, but we usually get some adults who say, I never thought about that,’ or ‘I never thought about the impact of when I get my phone out and we’re in the grocery line and my child sees that you can’t ever be idle.’ I think there’s that reflective piece for adults that’s really important,” Fontichiaro says.

“I think that, for all of us during the pandemic, we had our own moments of finding joy through technology — some families had talent shows, dance parties, quiz shows — and so it really has made us more aware that some of the old rules don’t fit, and maybe there are new ways to think about what it means to be healthy online.” Kristin Fontichiaro. Clinical Professor of Information. Featured on Michigan Minds.

Listen to Michigan Minds, "Exploring Digital Wellness With Kids and Parents," on the U-M Public Engagement & Impact website.

Resources mentioned in this episode: