— Managing our middle schoolers’ screen time and use

By Jessica Patti, Director of Middle School

Our Middle Schoolers are digital natives – they have grown up immersed in technology. However, our students’ familiarity with technology may unintentionally mask their need for guidance with how to engage appropriately with peers in ways that support boundaries and maintain personal integrity. Among Snapchat, messaging, Instagram, and group texting (or grext) there are a myriad of ways for students to connect with one another and share (at times near constant) communication.

While our students are growing up in a social construct that invites sharing profusely, the screen (vs face-to-face) simultaneously creates enough separation such that students’ inhibitions are lessened. This results in exchanges that would be deemed “over-sharing” in person, but are socially acceptable when sent electronically. Middle School is also the time when many parents are grappling with providing a personal device to their child and then with how to monitor use while supporting the emerging adolescent need for perceived “space” and personal privacy.

Here are some helpful tips and things to think about for navigating these sometimes tricky waters:

  • Have regular conversations with your child(ren) about social media.
  • Find out about the new apps they are using and how they are being used.
  • Ask your child to share current examples of how they have recently communicated.
  • Ask if your child has ever had interactions with others on social media that made them uncomfortable and why.

Create clear parameters around social media use:

  • Tell your child what you think is and isn’t appropriate to say and do online. (A helpful framework: If it would be uncomfortable in person, it should not happen on social media.)
  • Explain the difference between bystander and upstander. A bystander may “like” or “favorite” something hurtful an upstander calls out cruel and hurtful behavior and supports targeted students.
  • Let your child know if they may not use certain apps or sites.

Limit access to the device; students should not have cell phone and computer access 24 hours a day.

  • Set a time when you take the device in the evenings and when it is returned in the mornings.
  • Charge personal devices outside of student bedrooms.

Create clear expectations about the expectation of privacy.

  • Have students work on the computer in a communal space in your home.
  • As parents you should decide how frequently you will check the phone.
  • Go through phones and computers together with your child(ren) and talk about topics as they arise.
  • Always ask about new apps or apps you don’t recognize.
  • Have your child(ren) share all passwords for phones, computers and apps.
  • For more extensive resources, Common Sense Media has wonderful information.

For more extensive resources, please visit other related articles from our Parent Education Series: Parenting in a Digital Age, and more to come!


 

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