- All school
by Beth Coyne, Dean of Student Life
As an educator I have a healthy respect for technology. It certainly makes some aspects of life easier. Communication for one is easier and faster than ever. I don’t know if that is always a good thing, but it does help in my job. Student learning can be enhanced with educational games for math, reading, spelling and more. Typing papers can make revising and editing so much easier, and voice to text opens up the world of communication to those who in the past have struggled to get thoughts to the paper. I must admit I really love using Google docs and spreadsheets to access materials at work and at home without having to carry a big bag of papers or a laptop back and forth. For students who tend to forget things at school using Google docs can also be a big help. Our online vocabulary and grammar programs mean that students can no longer lose their grammar workbook. We feel good about these advances and do recognize the benefits our students gain especially when they head off to high school where they will need to have a facility with emailing teachers or accessing information for their classes online. However maintaining an efficient, productive and healthy online life requires self-discipline.
While typing this blog I had two emails pop up from people I was expecting to hear from. Do I stop my train of thought and jump over to see what they wrote? I also had a Facebook pop up with news from a cousin who lives in Ireland. I have been down that road before, go on to see the news, then see and read the other 10 posts that are in my alerts. Suddenly the hour or so I put aside to write has become 90 minutes, maybe two hours and the dishes are still in the sink, or the laundry remains wet in the washing machine because I got distracted online. Having worked with many adolescents over my career, these distractions happen all the time for them and when you are 13 the pull to respond to a friend or to see a post on your Instagram can be too strong to ignore. In fact, it’s developmentally appropriate for teens and preteens to want to constantly check in with friends. The other draw for these young teens and preteens is when the device has games or music loaded onto it and the student stops working to select favorite songs to play while doing homework, or they check on their score of a game they are playing which sometimes can involve other friends who they are virtually playing against. When parents say it took their child hours to do an assignment, I must admit I now wonder, is it possible that they have been working for hours, but had 6-10 other technology based interruptions in that work time? Do they understand how to be efficient in their use of technology? How do we teach our children this sort of self-discipline when there are times we struggle with the same thing?
As parents, we are facing something that parents before us never faced. Parenting in this age of technology is a new journey that our children’s grandparents cannot weigh in on. They never had to do this. We will all have the feeling at some point that we’ve made some grave mistake by handing our child some piece of technology. We may regret we ever allowed them to open up that Instagram account or download an app. I think that is the new normal for parents today. Just like how much TV or what movies we allow our children to watch, we will encounter parents who have a different outlook or set of rules about technology in their home and that is not good or bad, it’s just different. Each family will have to figure out what works for them and there should be no judgements made about those decisions because again, no one has been here before us. We should recognize this issue and not be afraid to discuss it with other parents when our children are going to a playdate or a sleepover. At times we may feel that there is a lot we do not know about technology, and at times we think that our kids know more. It is now more important than ever to have a dialogue about this with others, find an environment or friendships where there will be a suspension of judgement, a freedom to discuss our own relationship with technology and learn with others. Because while there are things we may not know, there is a lot we do know. We know how to parent our own children and all of us at any point can be empowered to put the brakes on our family’s relationship with technology and rethink how we want to interact with one another and with screens.
If you are ready for this dialogue or you think maybe you are a point where you should learn more please join us at Minds in Motion on Saturday, Oct. 14 for our parent panel who will speak to the theme Raising Technologically Healthy Children. That same panel will join us on November 9 for our Country School Parenting Series where we will host the documentary, Screenagers, Growing up in the Digital Age. After the film the panelists will take questions from the audience to continue our dialogue. I hope to see you there so can learn and grow together as we continue to blaze this parenting tech trail together.