Every middle school parent thinks about social media and their child. This permeates every socioeconomic, ethnic and geographic group. There is no escape.
Starting a Conversation about Social Media and Technology
Establishing a positive community conversation was a priority for Clay Elliott, Randolph's Middle School Head, when he sponsored a parent education event in May 2017. Many schools, including Randolph, have established this open line of communication between parents, students and school staff so that we can be ahead of the issues that our students encounter. Keeping this positive community conversation is a priority for Clay moving forward.
Mandaine Miller, a Middle School parent, attended the brownbag lunch event. "I am not a techie person, but I want to keep up with what is going on because of my children. I am so grateful the Middle School shares parents' concerns about keeping our kids safe online."
Mandaine shared her biggest takeaway: "My daughter and I both use our phones as an alarm clock, but that is going to change. I will be ordering alarm clocks soon and we will be leaving our phones in the kitchen at night."
Aligning Technology Freedom with Level of Responsibility
Another Randolph parent, Jill Gaunt, noted that Clay effectively compared kid cell phone usage and freedom to the age-appropriate freedom and responsibility children have as they progress through their schooling.
How it applies to Lower School students:
"Lower School kids have lots of supervision throughout the day and this should be the case regarding their Internet use. Our 5th and 6th grade students walk to class freely and may chat along the way. In the same way, kids this age are ready for a little more responsibility and might be ready for a cell phone with minimal data ability."
How it applies to Middle School students:
Jill sees how the the idea extends to older Middle Schoolers: "7th and 8th grade students get a break period and can mingle with their friends – they're ready for more responsibility with a bit of parental control."
How it applies to Upper School students:
"When a child reaches Upper School, they will have a free period that teaches them time management and responsibility – time for their own private accounts, but maybe with a written contract signed by the child and parents. This will help set up guidelines for usage and can be referenced when a rule of the contract is broken."
Communicating with Your Child is Key
Communicating about cell phone monitoring is very important also. Parents should discuss how monitoring devices will be handled. Keeping it a secret from your child may lead to them trying to hide things. Children should be aware of the digital footprints that are made when they have access to things. Privacy of others should also be talked about and reminded about often.
Jill says, "It scares me to think about the things my child has the potential to be exposed to. Social media is the easiest place to see and/or hear inappropriate things. It is inevitable that this will happen, but I feel like communicating with him before it happens is very important."
Working together as parents is key. The saying “It take a village to raise a child” is so true. Positive parent groups are key to staying ahead of potential texting or app issues. Mandaine was surprised to know that Randolph and many schools have a social media/cell phone policy in place to manage the intricacies of personal communications and how they affect the school culture.
In fact, the Upper School has made a change to their policy in the hopes of promoting more face-to-face interactions and encouraging students to be more present in their school day. There's no doubt that this technology does affect our children's attitudes and perspectives. Let's work together to make sure they manage in the healthiest way possible.
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