From the Principal’s Desk – 04 May, 2017
I have always maintained that being a parent in the 21st century is one of the hardest jobs currently out there. Not only are you dealing with all the regular parenting dilemmas and decisions that existed PTA (pre-the-technology-age), your job is further complicated with the continuous advancements of technology and the effects of the ever expanding social media that is dangerously attractive to the modern day child.
More and more we are experiencing new problems and dangers that our students are being exposed to with regards their use of technology and social media. While one can never downplay the importance of using technology in today’s age, as a parent your role has exponentially increased as far as regulating and staying up to date with what all children are being exposed to.
Sadly we are seeing an increase in:
- The decline in good old fashioned face to face conversation and the human “connection” that should exist in how students communicate with one another and their parents/teachers
- the number of incidents where students are actively creating digital footprints which can come back and haunt them in years to come (and possibly hurt their chances of applying to tertiary institutions and that “dream job”
- inappropriate messages, voice notes, bullying/shaming and sharing of images/videos through mediums such as Whatsapp and Instagram
- sleep deprived students who acknowledge that they stay awake to “chat” with their friends until the early hours of the morning
- parents who are completely oblivious to what their children are actually getting up to and or are being exposed to via social media
- students being supplied with “cool gadgets” such as smartphones etc. but have little monitoring and or understanding of how to “exist” in the digital realm.
Now more than ever, parents have to make decisions for their children before they end up in hot water for doing something silly that may have huge implications later on. Some of these decisions include:
- Being careful of what pictures of your children you post on you own Facebook, and then not set your privacy settings. That innocent picture of your sweet 4 year old frolicking naked in the surf on your beach holiday might come back and haunt your teenager in his/her later years
- Considering when and if you purchase a smart phone for your child until they are old enough to handle the consequences of using this “loaded gun”. It is my personal belief that young teenagers up until at least the IGCSE years (aged 16) do not need a smart phone despite what they may tell you about “all my friends having one” or how you may be the reason why the “fun in their lives is non-existent”. Been at ground zero and observing what trouble our teenagers are getting into simply does not justify this purchase. The old Nokia 3310 cell phone is making a comeback and is more than sufficient for any emergency calls a child may need to make. Smart phones allow access to a wide range of apps and Internet access that many of our students simply do not use responsibly
- Maintaining some presence or restricting all together your child’s online social media pages (their digital footprint). This may include being their Facebook friend, or having a direct connection to their Instagram account – this will allow you to monitor their online use and assist them in learning how best to use these platforms responsibly.. Most parents may or may not know that the legal age requirement for having a Facebook account is 13 years of age.
- Continuously educating yourself on the latest apps and or programmes your child may be exposed to. Examples include; snapchat, Instagram, Qooh.me, twitter etc.
- Establishing rules within your own home to facilitate healthy practises. Examples include; having family meals together with no cell phones allowed at the table, surrendering digital devices before bedtime to restrict access to late night chatting other sleep depriving activities, or switching off your wireless each night before bedtime.
I share these ideas with you, to highlight the dangerous consequences that may result from the irresponsible use of technology and social media. Schools around the world are all experiencing increased problems surrounding this issue and to turn a blind eye or excuse a child’s actions due to their age, are responses that are simply not accepted anymore. Legal and criminal consequences are very real in today’s world and is something that I hope no child (or adult for that matter) will ever have to experience.
As a school we will be doing what we can to help educate and keep parents updated as they navigate this unprecedented mine field in their roles as parents and/or guardians.