Parents, Technology and Social Media

Our school district is in its second year of a 1:1 Chromebook initiative. This year, we issued laptops to almost 1400 middle school students. One of the things I deal with most often in regards to these machines is parent concerns. These concerns normally fall into one of two categories: 1. I am worried about students accessing inappropriate sites/material, or 2. I am worried about the amount of screen time my students spend on laptops/phones/tablets. Yesterday, I wrote a blog post for our school blog. I am posting it here as well. Feel free to use any part of it or all of it with your parents as well.

Social Media, Technology and Your Timberwolf

After some deep research, some investigation and discussion with many people, I have come to the conclusion that the internet is not a passing fad, that it is here to stay. This probably does not come as a shocking revelation to you. Since you are reading this, you most likely have a teenager. Said teenager is probably engaged with their device almost as much (if not more) than they talk. I know if I need to reach my kids, I don’t call them, I text them. I have gone so far as to text the two of them, who are upstairs in their rooms, to come down for dinner. I am not proud of that, but it was just easier (and more effective) than standing at the base of the stairs and yelling up to them. Such is our world these days. And then, your kids school gives them a device on top of that. What is a parent to do? Excellent question. While I do not have an answer or a solution for you, I have been reading some very interesting articles and have some suggestions for you. Full disclosure, and if you have heard me speak at all you know this, I am a proponent of technology for our students. Let me explain a bit why.

First and foremost, this is the world they are growing up in. We may not like, we may not understand it, we may not be able to operate it at times, but it is their world. When I was in my teens I tended to stay on the telephone (the one with a rotary dial that was plugged into the wall) for long periods of time. Drove my dad crazy. Remember we only had ONE line back in the day. This was how we communicated. It was the world we lived in. I am sure that my parents did something that drove THEIR parents crazy too. It is the way of things with parents and teenagers. Our teenagers today live with technology. Second, the ability to use this technology correctly is vital to their future success. they have to be able to know the proper way to get the most out of the tools they have. Again, it is here to stay, so we better get used to it.

So, what is a parent to do? The inclination is to throw up our hands and admit that we are still trying to program our VCR, with very little luck. But there is something we can do. Here are a few suggestions for parents:

Time and Place

Set guidelines for where and when technology can be used. Family dinner? No phones (including mom and dads) allowed at the table. Having a discussion with your Timberwolf? Set the expectation that when that is occurring there should be eye contact. As the parent, you are the one who sets the expectations.

Set Some Limits

I don’t know how it works at your house, but in our house the parents pay the cell bills. We pay for devices and data for those devices. As such, those devices and that data is mine. This means I control it. As the parent, you can set limits on the amount of screen time your child has in a day. Is your Timberwolf a video game player? Nothing wrong with that. Sitting playing video games for 8 hours on a beautiful sunny day? Maybe now there is an issue. Have limits as to when they can have their devices with them. Going to bed? Put the device in a drawer in the kitchen. Nothing being posted after 9 PM is so important it can’t wait until morning.

Talk to Your Timberwolf

Talk to them often about digital citizenship. Talk to them about how to be good internet users (remember, it’s not going away). Like any other tool, it can used for good and bad things. The digital world is just like the real world in some aspects. There are so many benefits and good things out there, but there are also areas of the real world you would not let your Timberwolves go into unaccompanied. Talk to them about how the digital world also has these elements.

Monitor Online Activity

While there might be some questions out there about student privacy, as the parent you have a massive responsibility. As I said in the above paragraph, you would not drop your Timberwolf off downtown and tell them you will pick them up in a few hours. You wouldn’t let them loose at a concert and say see you later. The digital world is the same way. Keep an eye on their activity. While they may think you are spying on them, remember that you are trying to keep them safe, wherever they may be.

In the next few weeks, I am going to create a page on the blog for internet safety resources. Please check back often to find new resources. And remember, the internet is here to stay. You heard it hear first.

Dr. Ellena

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About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
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