A few weeks ago, RPCS hosted author Ana Homayoun for two days of workshops with our students, faculty, and parents. She was really amazing, and her words still resonate with me. Many of her specific talking points were around social media wellness, however, closely related to that are issues surrounding self-image, positive parent relationships, and sleep deprivation. Ana began her time on campus by talking to faculty and staff about non-judgmental ways of helping families navigate the tricky world of devices. She reminded us that each family has different needs, and the impact from regular screen time use is still being studied. We should not dictate or judge individual families’ decisions about screens and social media. That being said, few parents would disagree that use of technology is a constant worry and subject of conversation in their households.
As a caring institution, we try and address these concerns by bringing in speakers on a regular basis. Next year, as a tri-school, we have enlisted the help of parenting writer, Katherine Reynolds Lewis, who wrote The Good News About Bad Behavior, to speak to parents in the Lower School and Preschool parent community. She will address some of the things that Ana Homayoun pointed to in her talk: setting limits, giving children more responsibility, and establishing intrinsic motivation for heathy habits such as good eating and sleeping routines.
Screen time is a growing concern, and the statistics which Common Sense Media regularly publish are enough to send anyone hurrying to collect device chargers and remote controls. The news media regularly reports on many social ills attributed to increased screen time. Children are sleeping less, childhood obesity is on the rise, depression based on a lack of positive self-image is increasing in young children (and girls are especially vulnerable), and children of all ages seem more distracted- to the point of increased diagnosis of learning differences.
What to do? I have been stepping up my reading on these topics, as they come up frequently in parent conversations. Recently, I read an article published in the Washington Post that outlined some very common sense ideas about mitigating the effects of our “on-line society”. It talked about avoiding the “ban” of devices, but rather use the opportunity to teach why there are many pleasant and rewarding alternatives to social media and screens. Encourage outdoor play and make opportunities readily available with friends and WITH YOU! Encourage play in general, again with family- things like games. Read books with your children and try and find time to read for extended periods of time, so “bingeing” on book chapters is as addictive as a Netflix series! Stop all media use as a family well before bedtime. Ana Homayoun suggests not allowing your children to bring phones, iPads, etc. into the bedroom when retiring for the night, as it is proven to interfere with sleep. Model good etiquette with cell phones for your children and establish “conversation zones” that remind them that there are times when human interaction is the most important social time one can spend together.
You might be surprised by how grateful your children, and even “tweens”, feel about these thoughtful and realistic guidelines. When Ana Homayoun wrapped up her talk with our fourth and fifth grade girls the other week, one girl raised her hand and offered her new self-imposed rule to leave her iPad in another room at bedtime. The girls applauded!
I hope that my communication with you encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your children. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.
- If you are in Kindergarten- What is Derby Day and what is the importance of hats? What did Mrs. B’s hat look like?
- If you are in First Grade- How did you code the Bee Bot to travel your classroom map? What questions do you have about maps and navigation?
- If you are in Second Grade- What are some things you have learned about Baltimore in social studies class? What special treat did you do with the Kindergarten class involving Derby Day?
- If you are in Third Grade- What can you describe about the economics of Maryland? What did you learn about forces and motion in science? How did you learn about static electricity in class this week?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- What organization are you researching for the non-profit fund-raising project? What do they support. and why did you choose them?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- What preparations did you make to prepare for the Maypole Dance? How is your dance for the spring concert coming? What is the most complicated part?