Local experts develop program to get students focused in a digital age

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CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Disconnecting from devices in a digital world is not so easy.

Experts say that’s even more true for kids. That’s why two psychology professionals in Hampton Roads have teamed up to create a program that’s already proving to help students ditch the distractions.

“Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose,” said Marsha Engle, who helped create the curriculum for “Mindfulness and Movement for Children.”

Engle says the goal of her book is to get students living in the moment. She helps children wean off their devices using games and stories.

“They’re calmer. They’re more present. There is a better connection with their classmates and the teacher, less acting out,” said Engle.

Rev. Paula Mekdeci is senior minister at Unity Renaissance, a spiritual center in Chesapeake, where she says the program is helping kids enrolled in the youth ministry.

“They say the most profound things,” said Mekdeci. “They’ll say, ‘Today, I have a choice whether I get angry or not’ [and] ‘Today, I realized I don’t have to put up with bullying.'”

Engle recently taught the program to a group of 20 teachers in Chesapeake Schools. The skills, which range from learning to breathe and making more eye contact, can also be taught at home by parents.

Engle says it all about bringing people’s awareness to the activity that you are doing to help calm them down and connect with others.