Digital wellness is a topic Central Okanagan Public Schools has taken on with new initiatives aimed to help parents navigate the impact of digital technology on their kids. (Contributed)

New initiative helps Central Okanagan parents better connect to digital world

Program a combination of guest speakers and information resources

Navigating our digital world today is a challenging and sometimes fearful journey for parents and students.

So Central Okanagan Public Schools has taken the progressive step to develop a new initiative to provide some insight on controlling the impact of our digital world.

Called Digital Wellness, the program is the result of an idea developed by school district administrative staff with the collaboration of parents beginning three years ago.

Those discussions led to a pilot project prototype, Digital Wellness for Families Online Course, for four school communities – École KLO Middle, North Glenmore Elementary, Watson Elementary and Raymer Elementary.

Jordan Kleckner, Central Okanagan Public Schools acting director of instruction for learning and innovation, helped lead the project to fruition, assisted by research support from UBC Okanagan.

Kleckner said about 50 parents were engaged in the consultation feedback process, offering input on the pilot project content and the best format to deliver the information, recognizing that time for parents with school-aged children is already taxed.

From that process evolved two specific directions going forward: Digital Wellness – Bits & Bytes, a free subscription service offering an ongoing stream of articles, information and helpful ideas to support parents and their kids to advance their digital knowledge and navigating skills; and an initiative partnered with the district parents advisor council to bring in guest speakers for virtual presentations.

The first of those presentations was the recent appearance of Dr. Katharine Smart, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, to speak about COVID vaccination pros and cons for younger children.

The next guest speaker booked for two Zoom sessions on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3, 2022, is author Jennifer Casa-Todd, author of the book Raising Digital Leaders: Practical Advice for Families Navigating Today’s Technology.

She will address issues geared to parents of elementary-aged children on Feb. 1, and middle/secondary-aged children on Feb. 3.

Further information on the presentations will be forthcoming for times and link connections.

The digital byte subscriber service will be officially launched in mid-January and already has 600-plus parents signed up.

Leckner said neighbouring school districts have shown an interest in the program, saying technology allows for parents outside of the Central Okanagan access to participate.

He said the digital world is constantly evolving, with technology platforms always changing, and often raising new fears for parents which need to be addressed through knowledge rather than fearful extreme reactions.

“The analogy I use for what parents face today is teaching your kid how to ride a bike but you don’t know how to ride a bike yourself,” he said.

He said the school district has a moral imperative to both teach students how to use technology and equip them with the skills, knowledge and disposition how to adapt to technology and lead healthy lives.

He added digital wellness and digital equity are two phrases that are a common theme to the school district’s goals and objectives.

“I am fortunate to be part of a team here that is very progressive thinking…we have a very supportive leadership team from the school trustees on down and also bring in the voices of students, parents and other stakeholders,” he said.

Kleckner said he defines digital wellness as combining several elements: practical mindfulness, using technology to explore and learn through critical thinking, connecting positively in a digital world and being safe.

For more information about the Digital Wellness initiative, check out the website www.sd23ltd.com/digital-wellness.

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