First of all, I want to take a moment and thank you so much for joining the Band of Mamas through this journey. This blog continues to grow and morph into this amazing place where we are able to share and connect on so many new experiences. I began this journey of #BlogLife last May on Mother’s Day and am loving every second of writing and getting to know so many of you on a personal level. Getting to be a part of this has brought me incredible joy!
Many of you know (but my new readers may not!) that aside from keeping up with my family and this blog I am also a seventh grade Language Arts teacher. So, day in and day out, not only am I raising two kids of my own, I’m also helping shape and mold 100 teenagers each school year as well. It’s crazy the similarities some days, between toddlers and teenagers, am I right?
I am writing today because we recently began our Media Literacy Unit. We began as we do every year, with a survey about media use in the home. And I don’t know if it’s because I now have two small children at home, but I will tell you… the results were astounding. Some of my seventh graders reported that they are up all night long… playing video games, hanging out on snap chat, or messaging friends. Some of them receiving and sending in the upwards of 50-100 messages a night. This is extremely concerning–both from a teacher and parent perspective. I sent this exact message to the parents of my students, and it was so well-received by the overwhelming majority, that I felt compelled to share on this platform as well. My message today is an important one:
I am recommending that you monitor, watch, and restrict your teenager’s cell phone usage and set gaming limits. If you already are, please share your thoughts below or provide suggestions. If you’re not, it’s not too late to start now!
Here are a few of the thoughts I have after my findings this week:
An overwhelming majority of students said they are on their phone in the middle of the night responding to snaps, texts, watching YouTube, and so on. Not only am I concerned about their sleep, I’m also concerned about what they are doing at those hours. Did you know you can set limits to how much time they can use certain apps? Did you know that you can shut off their apps, messaging, wifi, and so on, after a certain time? You CAN, and to be honest, I think every one of you should. The top apps I have heard of from staff and other parents at this school (for monitoring smart phone usage) are Family Time, Norton, & Qustodio. If you’d like to read more about Parental Control Apps and others available, please use this link: Best Parental Control Apps
Some of my students reported staying up until 3:00 on social media or gaming. Many of these kids said that the comments other players make through their headsets are things they would and should not repeat. They hear young kids and grown adults swearing, using vulgar language, and saying hateful things. Aside from this negativity, they are unable to focus when they come to school because they are exhausted. They actually tell me that they know they don’t sleep enough. This is a cry for help and they need it from you! If you’d like to read more about sleep for teenagers, please use this link: Sleep in Adolescents
Finally, many of my students stated talking about, discussing, or seeing things online (whether it be texts, social media, YouTube) that they know are not appropriate, are wrong, or that their parents would not approve of. Whether it be sites like Urban Dictionary, gossiping about students, or watching videos that are not appropriate for teenagers to see and hear, they openly admit to this. This is scary. I promise you that I do my best to encourage positive, safe, and healthy choices online while they are in my classroom and to steer clear of — Oh, be careful little eyes what you see… hear… etc. But when we aren’t watching, what are they doing?
Additionally, many students responded with the following uplifting information:
-My parents take my cell phone at 7:00 PM and I am not allowed to get it until I leave for school the next day. They keep it in their room.
-My parents keep all laptops, computers, and gaming systems in a common room and I am not able to use them after a certain hour.
-If my grades are not As and Bs, my phone or gaming privileges are taken away.
-My parents monitor apps I want to purchase and it sends them a notification before I am able to purchase it.
-My parents do not allow video games during the week, only on weekends. I have to have all my chores and homework done before I can play.
We are all parenting in an age that was different than when we grew up–myself included. We did not have the Internet (Hello, AOL in 2001, finally!) until I was in high school, I didn’t have any devices, televisions, or gaming systems in my room, and we were lucky if we got to use the home phone to call a friend at night. It is important to open up the lines of communication with your child about what they are seeing and how they are responding. Many of the kids said to me, But Mrs. Murray, that’s invading my privacy! I kindly reminded them that if they aren’t doing anything on there they aren’t ashamed of, it really shouldn’t matter. I’m not your friend, I’m your teacher. And your parents are not your friend yet, either. Someday they will be! And it will be a lovely new adventure to go on together. I know this because it’s a great feeling to be friends with my Mom and Dad. But until then–until that moment you know your kids are grown enough to live their life and make their own, mature decisions… Invade your kids’ phones. Read their messages. You need their logins, passwords, and the apps they’re using. Check their browsing history. Many of you might be thinking this sounds like a lot and like a full time job, and you’re right. It is a lot to manage. But imagine what your kids have at their fingertips: a lot to manage and sift through as mere teenagers. We, as a team, need to continue to share information and help each other raise these children in the Digital Age.
If you’ve got a handle on this, please… share your secrets! I need all the help I can get before my kids get to this age 🙂
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