Head of School’s Letter

Navigating A Complex On-line Society

Posted by Joanna on November 19, 2015

How do we keep our children safe on-line?

Last night, we had the privilege of hearing Dr. Elizabeth Englander, an expert in the field of bullying and aggression, speak at ASM. I have attended four of her talks and I learn something new each time, in part because of her continuous research in the field of children’s social lives, both online and in the real world.

Dr. Englander gave several concrete suggestions for parents to help their child navigate the complexities of the on-line social arena:

  • Golden rule: have frequent conversations with your children about what is going on in their lives. This includes creating expectations and rules for using technology and visiting social media sites. Talk, talk, talk!
  • 24-hour rule: don’t post anything on-line when you are feeling upset or emotional. (Or wait at least 2 hours!)
  • Responsibility equates to privileges. Your child needs to demonstrate responsibility in order to earn the privilege of using technology. One of the ways children can demonstrate responsibility is by regularly doing chores at home.
  • Ensure that the front seat of your car is a no-device zone. This models safe behavior that you will want your children to practice when they learn to drive and talking to your child when driving provides valuable time for conversation.
  • Collect the smartphones in your household at bedtime. 80% of girls and 71% of boys report using their phones late into the evening. Explain to your child why sleep is so important: for learning, and for physical and emotional health.
  • No devices at the dinner table. One indicator that has endured the test of time is that children who have frequent conversations with their parents are better at social relationships and making good decisions.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to consider Dr. Englander’s suggestions. The earlier we begin implementing safe on-line practices, the better prepared our children will be to navigate their complex and ever-changing on-line environment.

I wish you all a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving!

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