As parents, we worry about the things we can actually see that pose a threat to our kids’ safety and well being. Poisons, car accidents, stranger danger…
But it’s the things we cannot see that are causing a tremendous amount of pain and hurt to our children – and sometimes even worse.
Children as young as six or seven have been busted for sending nude pics to each other. Middle schoolers are watching porn on their phones and sending seductive Snaps to each other. High schoolers are hooking up with unknown adults through apps, putting their safety and health at risk, and finding themselves the victims of sex trafficking.
Parents know how harmful too much screentime can be. But it’s also what dangerous things they’re doing and seeing during that screentime that heightens the severity of the situation.
A middle school assistant principal named Chris C. has taken to social media to beg parents to be more vigilant in knowing what they’re kids are viewing and doing on their cell phones and other devices. As a school official, every single day he is sickened by what he sees.
“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 the 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.”
Assistant Principal Chris strives to “create and sustain a school environment where both students and teachers feel safe physically, emotionally and mentally in order to effectively teach, learn, innovate and socialize.” When an incident arises and Assistant Principal Chris has to contact parents, he asks them how often they check their kids’ photos.
“The shock gets even worse when 90 percent 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 without accountability. You own their devices, not them. You should be having the hard conversations with them about life, relationships, their bodies, their futures, etc.”
Assistant Principal Chris emphasizes that it is every parent’s responsibility to provide social and emotional support, help build coping skills and monitor their activities, especially online.
“Please stop actively working against the 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.”
The assistant principal offered three tips for “getting in your child’s way.” They can be modified based upon each parent’s individual relationship with a child:
1. Eat dinner as a family every night possible and actually talk. No devices allowed. Current research suggests parents only spend about eight minutes a day in conversation with their kids. That’s unacceptable.
2. Check their devices RANDOMLY AND OFTEN. 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 and 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.
As a final bit of advice, Assistant Principal Chris insists parents do not let their kids take their phones into their rooms behind closed doors and disappear for hours on end.
“Nothing good ever happens on the internet behind closed doors. The online world is by far the most dangerous place our students go every day. We can’t assume they will intuitively know how to navigate the dangers of the online world on their own. Please, help us with this.”
Have you had trouble with social media and your kids? Do you have advice from personal experience to share?
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