Last year, before Covid, I gave an in-person parent workshop on Social Media. I was happy to discuss the more popular social media sites and parental controls. The workshop was well-attended. I think it is important for parents to understand and have the resources to guide their children into making positive social media choices. I had a parent the next morning tell me that she went right home and checked her own privacy settings then made some educated choices about her settings. She also said that her children are young (early elementary and preschool) and it did not really pertain to them right now. But…(here is the point)… this workshop will help her be aware as her children get older.
When I reveiwed the attendance to that workshop, almost all the parents had kids who were tweens and older. Which is great if this workshop helped them make informed choices about their tweens and older children’s social media access. And how to discuss this topic with their children. But…(here is the point)…families with younger children need to set limits and model healthy media habits too. How parents handle video games and screen time will have lasting effects on their children’s media habits.
In the past few weeks, I have been approached by several parents to discuss this issue. Even though we have been in school (with a few VIPs – my term for our Zoom students), these families have noticed an increase in screen time because after school playdates are non-existent. And weekends are very long without getting together with friends and families. So I discussed with each of them, then I did a Lunch & Learn Zoom parent discussion about ways to set expectations. To me the key is modeling. Parents need to model healthy digital habits.
We have seen the commercials and posts…screen free dinners. But it is more than that. It should be more than that. It is leaving the phone in another room when reading to our children at night (or in some cases starting the habit of nightly reading – those benefits belong in a different post). It is watching their sporting and performance events without constantly taking pictures, enjoy the game/performance – not documenting the game/performance seen only through the lens of a camera. Take one and put the phone away. This goes for family outings too. Yes, it is nice to have a picture or three to look at later and reminisce. But that is enough to start the remembering later and the conversation will be just as lovely than being hunched over the phone looking at 25 or more photos.
Not answering texts when driving. Thinking to start that when children get close to driving is not correct. Those early impressions of you on your phone as you drive are lasting.
Encourage parents of your students to make a family media plan. When they can use devices and when they should/can not. To start this plan, families should observe and record their device activity for a few days or a week. This will give them the personal data to make a plan. Choosing one area to focus on is easier and more likely to be successful. Maybe a device free dinner for 2 weeknight meals and 1 weekend meal. Of course placing screen time restrictions on children may be a bit more drastic. Allowing vidoe games anytime can be changed to only on non-school nights. Phones are put away at 7 pm for tweens to allow some non digital time before going to bed.
These are doable starts to share with parents. Here is a wonderful book to have in your school or class library to encourage parents to be present.
Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) if these collections were helpful. If you want me to do a Lunch & Learn with your parents email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.