School is back in session. By now, we have a few weeks under our belt, and everyone is rocking along in a new school year. Here at the Bush house, things have looked different with one of ours starting college. I will always believe time is a thief, but I am excited for him and his new ‘firsts”. I am sure the same is true with you and your kids. Whether they are starting first grade or college, the “firsts” can be so fun. We all enjoy new clothes and shoes, new friends, and mostly everyone is on their best behavior for those first couple of weeks.
But as we move into the heart of the school season, we start to see some behaviors emerge. Kids have gotten used to being back together. The extra device time they were used to over the summer that held their attention (because it changed every 60 seconds)…well now they have teachers asking them to sit still and focus on one thing for 60 minutes. This is where things get challenging.
I have had the excellent opportunity to speak at several teachers’ conferences and keynote a few PD sessions this year. And while I do not want to speak for all teachers, I can tell you in my talks with them that they express their exhaustion in dealing with students and their social media. Our educators want to teach. They do not want to navigate fights because of social media spillover into the classroom. And most teachers today will tell you that this takes up so much of their time. Counselors and principals are expressing the same concerns. They see our kids daily for an average of 6-8 hours. They see the issues. They know that our kids are struggling and the hardships social media creates in the classroom. Frankly, they need our help.
While some schools have digital literacy programs taught to students, nothing will ever be better than a parent being an active part of their child’s digital life. It is incredibly hard for impulsive kids to make good, sound decisions regarding device use. And while they are not making all bad decisions all the time, there are some issues that we as parents can work on at home to help our children and, in turn, their teachers.
1) We can check their devices and make sure they do not have inappropriate content.
2) We can ensure that device time is limited to an age-appropriate length.
3) We can ensure the device is NOT sleeping in the room with the child at night.
4) We can have ongoing open conversations about what our kids are doing online.
These four things will help protect our child AND help support our wonderful teachers in the classroom. Doing these tasks at home can mitigate any exhausted, drama-infused spillover into the school setting.
One common theme I see and hear from educators is how significant family and community involvement is for our schools. While I believe we will start seeing more digital literacy programs in schools, we, as parents, must ensure we are doing our part at home. To protect our kids… and support our teachers.
Kristi Bush serves as a national education consultant and social media safety advocate. She is a licensed social worker with greater than 15 years of clinical practice and health care experience. She attended Troy and Auburn University where she studied social work and counseling. Kristi travels nationally and has spoken with thousands of children, parents, professionals and organizations about the benefits and threats associated with social media. You may reach Kristi through her website at www.knbcommunications.com.