From the Principal’s Desk – 27 July, 2017

Dear Parents,

Last night the Parent’s Association organised and hosted a Social Media talk with a different approach. Jess Oosthuizen, a PHD student at UCT, is currently doing research on the uncharted and ever changing world that surrounds the effects of the use of social media on our young students today. Her research and findings were informative and most certainly gave parents and students much food for thought.

It was interesting to understand that as the world continues to evolve, we have to adapt to these changes and rather quickly I might add. The world of Digital Immigrants (people who can remember a world before cell phones) and Digital Natives (those who can’t AKA many of our children) is a complex one often resulting in misunderstandings and clashes between the two groups. With the digital world here to stay we have to seek to understand the reasons many people are using social media and how this affects them especially for a parent of a digital native.

I was not too surprised at the results of a study Jess did with a focus group of young adults who volunteered to do a social media detox (basically limiting or not engaging with the use of social media for a period of time). Some of these young adults experienced high levels of anxiousness, stress and panic at not knowing what to do with themselves when removing their cell phones and digital devices. For some these items have become an extension of self – which means that they literally feel that they cannot do without it. She also found that many of the focus group participants did not have the necessary social skills to navigate simple situations such as handling themselves in a job interview. On the plus side some members of the focus group realised that it was not so bad to communicate in “real time with a real person”, and having been faced with the “terrible” thought of having to experience boredom (a terrible thought for some), they actually entered the creative process of figuring out what to do with themselves (essential for developing creative and problem solving skills).

There is no way to really do last night’s talk justice in these few lines, but for me the most important thing I took away from it was this: Parents still have the power. It is the parents that place these devices into the hands of their children, it is the parents who can set boundaries for the use of such devices, and it is the parents who can still regulate the use of such devices thus ensuring that their families embrace and use social media according to their own family values.

It is clear that this digital world is the future and we cannot escape it – BUT we (as the adults) need to find ways to manage the exposure and etiquette of how our children will engage with this powerful medium.

Kind regards,

Grant Ruskovich