January brings a bustle of celebration as students return from a lengthy break with stories and an excitement to connect with their peers. They frequently talk about the highlights of their holiday and their newest gifts or purchases, especially coveted technology.
For some in Middle School, it is their first time having their own phone, tablet, gaming console or smartwatch. It is also the first time they may have access to or more independence in various online platforms, such as texting, social media, gaming or chat communities. In 2022, I wrote an article about helping students safely navigate social media. Let’s continue the conversation about the opportunities for fostering healthy habits that create safe and positive online experiences.
As parents and educators, we have the challenge and responsibility of navigating online boundaries with children, mitigating risks and empowering ourselves with the knowledge and confidence to address tricky situations when they arise. This term, our focus in Middle School is the “well-being” characteristics of the Portrait of a Learner. The students will ponder how they would like to spend their time, especially online:
- How much screen time is appropriate?
- How do students safely and respectfully show up online?
- How do students navigate the array of feelings that they experience when engaging with social media or group chats?
- Who do they go to when they feel overwhelmed online and need help?
The above is also important for parents and guardians to consider as they set and apply the boundaries of online access and activities for their children. Open and regular conversations about your family values, consent, privacy and respect are strongly encouraged.
Additionally, it is helpful to decide what guidelines and expectations work for your family. What is age-appropriate, what parental controls are available, and what are your limits for online sharing of personal information? Maintaining open communication can help us all understand what is working well, how our students prefer to spend their time online and where they may need more support and guidance.
The evolution of the online landscape can feel overwhelming, and staying informed is crucial. As the Middle School continues to expand our understanding of digital literacy, online safety and social media access, we have curated helpful resources for families to consider.
In the spirit of a New Year and reflection, let’s consider how we can continue to support our children and students to responsibly navigate the digital world.