18 May

Dean’s Message

Summer Parenting Opportunity: Help Your Child Develop Good Social Media Use Habits

As the end of the school year approaches and students look forward to the change of pace and excitement their summer schedules will bring, they also may be thinking about how to stay in touch with their friends.  Using social media, and connected technology in general, has become second nature to many children today, so it is likely their use of instagram, twitter, group chats, snapchat, and the rest will increase — with all the pleasures, challenges and pitfalls of living life on line also lying in wait.

Facile as they are in the use of connected technology to communicate, middle school children are still learning to navigate the social environment with grace, integrity, empathy and restraint.  Parents, you are their guides!  The start of summer is an excellent moment to grasp this important parenting opportunity. Take advantage!

Many experts suggest that having a contract with children about their digital use can be an important part of making youngsters safe in the digital world that they so comfortably, and sometimes recklessly, navigate.  If you do not already have one, now is the perfect time to begin thinking about what you would include in such a contract at home. Even if you decide not to have a formal contract, just sitting down as a family to talk about electronic socializing is a great way to open the sort of conversations that help to keep your child safe on-line, help ensure the civility of their on-line communities, and allow you to stay aware and involved in your child’s on-line life. You might want to consider the following:

  • Agreeing that you will have access to your child’s on-line accounts and devices and discussing how you will monitor your child’s activity.  For example, Lauren Hersh, the speaker on social media who visited campus last spring to work with parents, teachers and students, suggested that parents “follow” their children who post on social media sites and discuss with them the interactions displayed there.
  • Encouraging physical activity, outdoor play, and face-to-face interactions.
  • Teaching conventions of respectful interaction directly as you, and they, entertain and interact with friends face-to-face — and then deliberately drawing parallels between on-line interactions and those face-to-face interactions you have modeled and taught.  Kids may not automatically see the connection!
  • Setting limits on screen time and establishing rules about how and when technology can be used.
  • Storing electronic devices in a supervised area outside of the bedroom at night.
  • Opening lines of communication with your children about their experiences using digital technology while paying particular attention to
    • potential anxiety around missing out when not online;
    • pressures to connect digitally with friends;
    • complicated interactions and conflicts and how students should respond.

The following links provide useful resources for your conversations with your child on this topic and recall our recent parent’s association events with Lauren Hersh and the viewing of “Screenagers”: