Times are different now. Devices are prevalent among our kids. They transcend cultural, socio-economic, and grade level boundaries. Despite how traditional or conservative homes may be, devices are abound and our kids are digital natives.
As a disciplinarian, I’ve seen infractions involving virtual disrespect via social media platforms steadily increase. Devices have become an extension of some of our kids’ hands. Any time there is something of note taking place (entertaining, awe-inspiring, confrontational…), some of our kids seamlessly take their phones out and begin recording–almost as if it’s an involuntary muscle movement!
Once the phones are held up in their majestic recording positions, they have a spellbinding effect on all involved: everyone is now “on stage”. Some kids may feel an obligation or pressure to perform. Performing can take the form of goofy behavior, which can purposely or accidentally lead to harm or damage . Performing can also take the form of macho or aggressive behavior, which can lead others to feel threatened or unsafe. When on stage, our kids’ “performances” will be immediately posted and made available for the world to view, so this brief window of time, adrenaline, and anxiety can cause impaired decision-making and poor behavior in an effort to “steal the show”.
In the event this “performance” takes place out of school, staff are not privy to the causal incident or the back and forth escalation via social media throughout the evening/morning/weekend. It follows then that no pre-emptive measures are taken by the school, and upon arrival on school grounds…BAM: everything comes to head. In the wake of the boil over, school staff is left scratching our heads, while parents cannot believe that our schools allow such behaviors to take place, then label our buildings as “unsafe”.
Parents and guardians, we need your help. Often times–if not all the time–schools are oblivious to what transpires on devices you have purchased for our kids, using data plans you pay for, on accounts you may or may not be monitoring, on time that often is outside of school hours. Schools cannot manage this on our own. We are happy to help you promote digital citizenship and respectful behavior on- and off-line, and welcome your partnership in preventing or pre-empting escalation with information you relay to us; however, we desperately need your assistance on the frontline to help prevent the causal behaviors and incidents.
- provide clear and stern expectations upon presenting our kids with devices
- frequently and regularly check in on account activity by asking our kids to show you the latest threads on their accounts, or spot check conversations
- know our kids’ usernames, passwords, and screen names. If you’re really brave, have them tell you their friends’ screen names…
- know that our kids are accountable for the activity of their accounts
- know that grounding our kids from their individual devices may only be a minor inconvenience–or no inconvenience at all–to continuing their online engagement (via other devices in the house, a friend’s device, library, internet café, etc.)
- know that our kids may have multiple accounts, usernames, passwords, and screen names–some of which they may not share with you, thus making you oblivious to some of their activity..
- understand that engaging online is a choice, and although it may not be possible to avoid all negative encounters, it is absolutely possible to minimize/discontinue/block them
If you have ways home and school can partner together to encourage a safe virtual environment to help protect the physical environment, please respond and share!