Warning: Public Education Rant to Parents:
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 job 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 kids phones. 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 kids roles 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 kids 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 3 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 8 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 strengthens their brain development, emotional development, and builds resiliency in kids 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.
Work Credit: Chris Cochran, Vice Principal Of An American Public School, Year 2020
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