A recent article in the Educator asked the question, ‘Is social media a liability for schools?’ and the answer was interesting.
For Glasshouse Christian College, Facebook is a wonderful way of showing parents photos of their children learning something new, enjoying an excursion or camp and just having fun with their friends at a sporting carnival. It’s particularly valuable when family live far away and can’t be there for milestones like awards and citations. This week we are also launching our Instagram account and invite you to follow us for more sneak peaks inside life at GCC.
However, the downside of social media is a dark, unfriendly place that has been on our news a lot lately. Cyberbullying is a term that parents and teachers have become all too familiar with and there is a reason that the legal age for Facebook and Instagram is 13. Many families I know (including my own) set the age limit to much higher.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is a youth mental health expert and says that primary children “do not have the neurological maturity to manage their digital footprint.” However, he is finding that 60 to 70% of primary children are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat! His advice is that children under the age of 13 should not have access to social media without exception.
This is a very difficult rule to enforce when you consider that apps that are marketed as appropriate for children still have a social media component. In fact most internet based programs such as “Musically” or even “Mooshi Monsters” do have a chat component.
The advent of mobile phones in the hands of our children means that they are in a constantly connected culture thanks to social media platforms. The evidence is beginning to show the damage this is doing to our children’s mental health and social life.
There is no going back to a time when handwritten notes were the only form of communication so we must go forward intelligently and deliberately to help our children in such a digitally saturated world. Paul Langhorst from the CyberBullyHotline says, “Cell phones are the soda shops of the 21st century. Just like kids in the 50’s hung out at soda shops after school, today they hang out on their phones.”
As a College, we have taken the step of banning the use of mobile phones during the school hours of 8:30am to 2:55pm. I know this has been difficult for many of our students to adjust to and some parents may find the rule inconvenient but we believe it is an important step in protecting our students. Parents can still leave messages or texts for their children to read at 2:55pm when they pick them up from their locker or school bag. If there is an emergency of some kind, the first port of call should always be a call to Admin.
Banning access during school hours means that there can be no cyberbullying during this time. Teenagers in particular can be sensitive and children of all ages have ‘friend fallouts’ but without access to immediate venting on social media, it gives students time to calm down after school. This should result in less temptation to say hurtful things on social media when the access is restored after school.
In an article by The Guardian, another benefit of banning mobiles during school is that it boosts our students’ academic success. According to research done by the London School of Economics and Political Science banning phones at school resulted in better academic results for students and less distraction from their studies.
So what about after school when it is your turn to monitor your children’s social media footprint? For a start, I would strongly encourage all parents to become fully involved in their child’s digital presence. Don’t allow access until at the legal age as a minimum requirement and even consider raising it for your family.
On Monday this week Leath Ramsay ran a Cyber Safety Presentation for Parents and if you weren’t able to attend, you can read her article later on in this issue of the Eagle. You will also find a lot of information online about privacy settings, questions to encourage conversations with your children and how to keep up with the latest technology your children are embracing.
Madonna King wrote a book called ‘Being 14’ which was based just on interviewing 200 14-year-old teenage girls across the country and what she found was very surprising. Girls who were being cyberbullied never told their parents because they were worried that their parents would take their phone off them. These girls would rather be bullied than have their social media access removed! This is a conversation we need to have with our children now.
In many ways, parenting hasn’t changed. We need to listen to our children, find out what they are going through and work out intelligent ways to help them navigate the often challenging paths of childhood and adolescence.
Mike Curtis, Principal