Parents: I am an assistant principal in a middle school (grades 6-8). My number one job is to create and sustain a school environment where both students and teachers feel safe (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to teach, learn, innovate, and socialize. I take my job very seriously, as do my colleagues, and we work very hard to grow in our capacity to do our jobs on a daily basis.
I can’t begin to describe how much time I spend every day dealing with issues that stem from unsupervised cell phone usage by our students. In situations where I have to search a student’s cell phone, I often get sick to my stomach at what I find (highly inappropriate photos, videos, messages, social media usage, etc). The things our students are willing to try and be a part of at such a young age gets worse and worse every year.
When I call parents to inform them of what is going on, I always ask them how often they search their kid’s phone. The shock gets even worse when 90% of them say hardly ever or never. And then they get upset at me, accuse me of lying to them about their kid’s role in certain situations, or expect me to somehow fix the situation.
Parents: it is your number one job as a parent to get in your kid’s way at all times.
Kids do not deserve privacy. You own their devices, not them. You should be having the hard conversations with them about life, relationships, their bodies, their futures, etc. It is your responsibility to provide social and emotional support, help build coping skills, and monitor their activities. And stop actively working against schools and start working with us. We are not the enemy. We are trying to fulfill the role of both parent and educator in many situations, and that is a very delicate and difficult line to walk.
Here are three tips for getting in your child’s way:
1. Eat dinner as a family every night and actually talk.
No devices allowed. Current research suggests that parents only spend about eight minutes a day in conversation with their kids. That’s unacceptable.
2. Check their devices EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
You need to learn how to navigate their world. Inform yourself on how to use certain apps. Keep up with what apps are the most downloaded in the App Store. Make your kid show you their content and conversations and explain to you what is going on. Then give them advice.
MAKE CONTENT WITH THEM and be part of their online presence.
3. Create opportunities for them to have experiences.
Take them to do new things. See new things. Learn new things. This not only builds resilience and strengthens their mental and emotional development, but it also strengthens your relationship with them.
And finally, do not let them take their phones into their rooms, shut their doors, and disappear for hours. Nothing good ever happens on the internet behind closed doors.
It is by far the most dangerous place our students go every day.
Please. Help us with this.
Editors note: We know that raising a kid in today’s digital age is hard. Smartphone Sanity is a great book to read before handing over a smartphone to your child.
This post originally appeared on the author’s Facebook page.
*Recommendations in this post contain affiliate links. Her View From Home may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase.