Cyberworld: From the Teen Perspective

From the Teen Perspective

On Tuesday, March 4th, at 7pm, Lawrence parents gathered to hear about students’ use of technology, social media and cyber-bullying form the teen’s perspective.  Six Brookline High School Peer Leaders were present as were Officers McCabe and Pilot who work with the school as they teach the AWARE program.  June Harris, B-PEN coordinator, and Hope Schroy, BHS social worker, facilitated the evening program.

The peer leaders are currently juniors and seniors and all shared their level of use of technology and dependence on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.  They were eloquent  and honest as they shared how technology and social media support and deter their academic achievement and social interactions.  Examples of how they use their smart phones/laptops to take notes, communicate with teachers and access materials posted on-line by faculty (especially when they have lost a handout for the third time) were provided as ways that have enhanced their learning.  At the same time, they were very forthcoming as to how they will “multi-task” and have multiple technologies going at the same time while trying to complete homework.  “Homework that should take me 1-2 hours usually takes me about 4 hours often until 1am on school nights, “ one student admitted.

On the social front, they shared that they need their phones and laptops in order to communicate with peers about school projects and deadlines, and praised sites like “Google Docs” as helping them be more productive.  However, the same tools are a major distraction and constant use leads to sleep deprivation for many.  “I always have my phone on.  I go to bed with it under my pillow and I wake up to it first thing.”  They also communicated that too many peers rely on non-verbal sites like Instagram and Facebook to deal with social issues that can often lead to “drama!”

The conversation turned to advice they had for middle school and younger students and how parents can help their children learn how to use technology and social media in a productive manner.  They felt that parents need to set boundaries.  They shared that parents need to model the behaviors they are trying to teach their children. (Don’t text all the time and then tell your kids not to!)  They believe parents should communicate daily with their children to learn about their classes, friends and passions.  “Parents need to be involved in order to know what kids are doing, but in a way that allows kids to have some independence.”  Ideas of limiting screen time, making homework a phone free zone for 1-2 hours, and having children complete homework in an open space and not alone in room as, “Most kids will get distracted by phone and computer and procrastinate or not do work at all if there parents aren’t around to check.”  All the high school students agreed that productive, technology habits needs to start in the younger grades so students will be able to self monitor when they are older.

“Virtually no one had smart phones when we were in middle school.  That would have been crazy to deal with at that age!”  This was a sobering remark as it prompted other students on the panel to acknowledge how fast technology is changing and how younger children and their families are trying to navigate the cyberworld.   We are all so busy. However, time passes much too quickly. We need to take the time now to learn about their cyberworld and how they are trying to handle the daily barrage of expectations and challenges related to technology and social media.  I would have loved to have seen many more parents at the aforementioned PTO meeting.  However, there are other resources available to learn more on this topic.

1.  Brookline Parent Education Network (B-PEN)
2.  Common Sense Media

Take the time to stay involved!

Monica Crowley

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