Digital Ninjas

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Are children internet shrewd, safe and savvy?

Half the world’s population use this every day but we can’t physically touch it? It doesn’t smell of anything, you can’t taste it but many of us are addicted to it. Many think of it as not being real because it doesn’t ‘physically’ exist, but the internet is real, very real and the gap between online and offline is closing.

Safety First

Today is all about SID – Safer Internet Day and to ensure teachers are empowered to educate pupils around how to survive and thrive online, we’ve recruited Digital Awareness UK to share their advice on what’s sure to be one of the biggest digital issues for 2017 – screen time and tech addiction.

Digital Awareness are one of the UK’s leading online safety organisations and they are best known for delivering online safety workshops in schools across the UK. They recently partnered The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) to conduct a survey of 2,750 pupils aged 11 – 18 to investigate the impact mobile device usage at night is having on young people’s health and wellbeing, and the results were shocking:

  • Almost half (45%) of students admit they check their mobile device after going to bed
  • A quarter (23%) check their mobile device more than 10 times a night
  • A quarter (25%) spend more than an hour on their mobile device after going to bed (just over 11% of the whole)
  • A third (32%) of these student’s parents are not aware that they check their mobile device after going to bed.

Find out more about the survey here and watch Digital Awareness UK discussing their research on BBC World:


Whilst many teenagers have become accustomed to their devices pinging, buzzing and flashing by their bedsides throughout the night, for many this ‘always-on’ lifestyle is starting to take its toll. In fact, 68% of students say that using their mobile devices at night affects their school work and quarter (25%) also say they feel tired during the day because of how often they use their mobile device at night.

10 Ways to Manage Screen Time at Night:

Here are some tips from Digital Awareness UK on how to effectively manage screen time at night – these are definitely worth sharing with your students.

  1. 90 minutes before bed

The run up to bedtime should really be an opportunity for you to relax, wind down and perhaps reflect on the day. Whilst technology can be used to aid this process (by using meditation apps for example), it can also be very destructive. Social media in particular can expose the body to heightened anxiety or alertness, and this is not conducive to a good night’s sleep. So we would always advise refraining from screen time 90 minutes before bedtime.

  1. Notifications

It’s not easy to sleep when your mobile device is buzzing, pinging, or flashing throughout the night, even if it does help you to instantly discover what you’ve been tagged in or who’s just messaged you. To prevent restless nights, it may be helpful to turn off notifications, or activate ‘do not disturb’, ‘aeroplane mode’ or mute settings. Try switching the device off all together!

  1. Blue light exposure

A number of studies of late have highlighted the impact blue light (the artificial lighting emitted through electronic devices such as smartphones) can have on our sleep. This type of light can suppress the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which is what makes you feel sleepy. Blue light exposure can however be reduced through device settings. For example, most Apple devices now have the ‘night shift mode’, which changes the colour temperature of your device to reduce exposure.

  1. Unprompted checking

Sometimes without even being prompted, we will reach over for our devices to see what we’re missing out on, to communicate with each other, or just to be entertained. If you’re aware of this habit, do your best to break it and remember that such habits will prolong sleep deprivation.

  1. Location of device

Many of us are guilty of sleeping with our mobile devices near to our heads – even under our pillows! For obvious reasons, this isn’t a healthy place to have your device at night. Try to keep it in a location that prevents you from seeing, hearing or even reaching for it. For some this means leaving it on the other side of the room or a different room all together.

  1. Monitoring usage

It’s difficult to know if you are using your mobile device too often or for too long, if you don’t have awareness of exactly how much it’s being used. There are a number of screen time tracker apps such as RealizD and Moment that can effectively showcase the amount of time you are spending on your device – from how many times you check it in a day to how many hours you’ve spent on Snapchat. Some of these apps even allow you to set usage restrictions.

  1. Digital Detox

If you’re aware that mobile device usage is starting to have an impact on your sleep, you might want to think about taking a break from it all together at night-time, or at any other time during the day. This doesn’t mean you need to quit cold turkey – you may decide on week days you will switch your tablet off before going to bed, or that you will turn your smart phone off from 8pm on weekends.

  1. Switch up the habit

There are many things you can do as part of your night-time routine instead of using mobile devices, especially in the 90 minutes running up to bedtime. This is the perfect time to get stuck into a good book, practice meditation or have a relaxing bubble bath. Switching your habit of using mobile devices for a habit like this could encourage a better night’s sleep.

  1. Think

We rarely think about the reasons why we are using mobile devices at night-time, and often if we did, we would think twice. That’s because our motivations reveal the reasons aren’t always a necessity – often we pick up our smartphones at 2am out of intrigue or boredom. If the reason isn’t that important, perhaps you should consider your sleep and general health and wellbeing to be more important, and stop yourself from picking up the device as tempting as it may be.

  1. Reward (positive reinforcement)

If you discover that mobile devices are having a negative impact on your sleep and you’ve decided to take control back by exercising any of the tips listed above, it’s time to acknowledge that behaviour shift and give yourself a pat on the back! Make sure you treat yourself to something, whether it’s a shopping spree, a bar of chocolate, or the latest mobile device (if you think you can handle it)!

Digital Myths:

Although we have technologically savvy pupils on every street corner, the idea that they are digital natives is a myth. Students might like to think of themselves as digital ninjas, champions and experts, but their digital literacy and mastery, especially when it comes to safety, isn’t something we can take for granted.

Digital Awareness UK is an online safety organisation with a team of tech experts including YouTubers, hackers, bloggers and coders who use their knowledge to educate young people, parents and teachers on how to survive and thrive on social media. They run workshops, CPD and parent events tackling today’s biggest trends – from netiquette to sexting.

For more information visit or contact


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