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Tips on Talking Tech with Your Middle Schoolers

by Bill Leidt, Director of Technology

Parents of Middle School-aged children find themselves having to answer countless questions surrounding technology. Is my child ready for a smartphone? How do I help my child navigate this very adult responsibility? What is the right amount of daily screen time? Is my child too young for social media sites? How do I monitor my child’s tech use?

At The Country School, we believe the answers to these 21st Century questions lie in open and honest dialogue between adults and children. Middle School students need to discuss and make sense of what they experience online. Their handheld devices allow for unfettered access to every conceivable piece of information. Questions about what they are seeing, reading, and how they are reacting to it inevitably arise. It is our responsibility to field these questions – which can be awkward at first – and to encourage them to speak honestly and openly about their online experiences. 

Too much tech too soon can overly complicate a student’s life with more questions than answers. Having frequent conversations with your adolescent is essential to good digital health. Just like “the birds and the bees,” this is yet another talk that parents must initiate.

Beyond engaging in regular conversations, following are suggestions for a smooth tech transition:

  1. Provide guidance as opposed to becoming overly involved with your child’s tech use. Try to live by the motto, “It’s not a problem until it’s a problem.”
  2. Keep bedrooms tech-free zones. Middle Schooler students should not “sleep” with their tech nor should they wake up to their phones buzzing.
  3. Keep technology in a central location in the house.
  4. Have designated hours of tech use. We recommend no technology after 8 p.m. for any Middle School student. Parents should keep in mind that cell phones perpetuate the school day. It is important for kids to have a rest.
  5. Don’t be swayed by what other parents are doing for their own children. No one knows your child like you do. 
  6. It’s difficult to teach how to use technology while children are still developing their interpersonal skills. Ask yourself, “Is my child mature enough to handle this responsibility?”
  7. Have thoughtful conversations about proper technology etiquette.
  8. Create house rules: don’t be apologetic about exercising parental controls.
  9. Model good tech behavior for your children to imitate.

We parents are tasked with having to navigate the ever-changing world of technology, not just to educate ourselves but also to steer our children in the right direction and help them grow. We believe this can be best accomplished by asking questions, listening, and establishing trust within the family and school communities. It’s all about having conversations. 

 

Bill Leidt has been the Director of Technology at The Country School for the past ten years. He helped develop a curriculum that teaches Middle School students how to manage the digital world. He has presented at technology conferences sponsored by The Country School as well as for the Towns of Madison, Guilford, and numerous public forums on these topics.