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Notes from the Head of School: How to Encourage Your Children to Use Technology Thoughtfully by Taking Ownership of Your Family’s Devices

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 14, 2019

The start of a new year is often a time to begin new habits with renewed energy. Since it is fresh on my mind, I have one New Year’s resolution I would like to propose for parents to adopt if you are not already doing so. It is both simple and complicated, yet important in terms of your health, and the health of your children! I ask you to continue having conversations with your children about boundaries with technology, and to stress to them that while your children may have use of personal phones and computers, those items are  still owned by you, and it is still ultimately your responsibility to not just pay the bills or repair/replace them when needed, but to evaluate and determine how they are being used as well. This distinction and understanding matters because our students—your children—continue to do what kids do: push limits, make errors in judgment, push the “send button” before thinking, and on occasion make decisions that are very hurtful and sometimes dangerous to others. They do it online—through instant messages, text messages, Instagram, and I am sure, a host of venues whose existence I am unaware of… And they do it on phones and computers that are owned by you.

Over the past two months we have had to address several inappropriate situations across all grades (mostly in middle school) that involved texting and social media. While it is true that our kids in general are smart, talented, kind, and wonderful, they are STILL KIDS, who need direction, boundaries, and support in the navigation of adolescence. Talking directly to your children and keeping lines of communication open is always the best way to support your children, but if you are not also occasionally checking their phones and texts and emails, you may be inadvertently setting them up for troubling experiences in the future. “Trust but verify” is not the same as distrust, even if your kids may say so when you set the ground rules for their using the phones and computers you own. It is perfectly ok to tell your child that while you trust their intentions, it’s still your responsibility to both make sure that your children are learning how to use that technology safely, and to ensure that technology which you own isn’t being used to cause harm. We adore and love our children, but it’s also ok to realize their judgement isn’t always going to be the best, and it’s part of your role as parents—and ours as their teachers—to help children hone their judgement properly, which includes placing limits on their social media capabilities.

I want to be crystal clear that I am not in any way anti–technology! I try to approach most of life with the Aristotelian motto, “Everything in moderation.” This applies not only to the use of technology, but to the monitoring of your child’s online life. You don’t need to be a spy, nor do you need to read every email and text and post. But what you do need to do is make it clear that you can do so at any time, that you will do so on occasion, and that you are doing so because you care about who your children will grow up to be, and how responsibly and thoughtfully they will use the considerable power of technology in their lives. I encourage parents to reach out to Cyber Safety expert, Liz Repking, with questions or concerns you have surrounding the best approaches to take with your own children. Liz has spoken wonderfully about these topics to both our students and their parents here at ACS, and can be reached at liz@cybersafetyconsulting.com

As teachers, we see ourselves as partners with our students’ families, and want to work together to do all we can to keep these children safe. Think about this New Year’s resolution—I promise it is one you will never regret, and it is one that actually gets easier once you begin.

~Paul Druzinsky, Head of School

Tags:  children  parenting  social media  technology 

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