As parents, it is hard not to become nostalgic for simpler times—when kids were largely left up to their imaginations and spent most weekend days outdoors, biking, fishing, exploring with friends, getting to know each other and the world around them, relishing the independence of an afternoon full of possibilities.
While those days are still possible, the world has dramatically changed for our children in the last two decades, mostly as a result of greater access to technology and information. Our current middle and high school students have access to an ever changing and expanding online social world, thanks in part to smart phones. Unfortunately, it’s a world many of them enter long before they are mature enough to temper rash behavior, and fully explore the consequences of their actions.
Next Wednesday, October 7, the Sag Harbor School District will welcome Don’t Press Send Campaign founder Katie Schumacher who will have a discussion with fourth to seventh graders about cyber ethics. Ms. Schumacher will present a second lecture at 7 p.m. at Pierson High School for parents only. If you have a child who is already involved in social media, or is on the cusp, this will be a worthwhile education.
The statistics are sobering when it comes to how children and teens learn to socialize during some of the most delicate years of their lives—the occasionally treacherous, and crooked roads of adolescence. A tremendous amount of that growth is happening online either on social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat or on gaming sites. Problems that have arisen as a result include cyber-bullying, which lowers self-esteem, increases depression and has even suicide.
According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, about 2.2 million students experienced cyber bullying in 2011. Inappropriate texting or sharing of photographs, online predators, and a general lack of privacy are also real concerns, as is the simple addiction of online social sites—something adults are not immune to as well.
The technology—and social sharing, for that matter—is not going anywhere, and there will continue to be pressure on parents to allow their children to wade into these waters at younger and younger ages. There are benefits—synergizing creative ideas, connecting with educators and other students for school-based projects, the ability to connect with other students, learn about other cultures. That said, limiting screen-time, and ensuring our children have the tools to conscientiously live in the online world, is our responsibility as parents and educators.