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Living Our Values in the Age of Social Media

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With the many wonders of technology come the challenges of navigating new ways of communicating online. In 1994, we built our relationships in three simple ways: through conversations in person, by a telephone call, or crafting a letter on paper. Email was just emerging and being used by early adopters. Thirty years have passed, and how the landscape of communication has changed!

Social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and others, present our young people with unparalleled access and exposure to the world around them.  In many ways, these platforms have benefits.  Social media allows young people to connect with friends and family. It allows for personal expression, enhancing creativity by sharing ideas, music, and art. It opens doors to current events and issues.

You may allow your child access to social media already, or perhaps you are considering when it is right to introduce access to your child.

Many social media apps are permitted for children ages 13 years and over. If you do allow your child to access social media, we ask for your vigilance. Just like their interactions in person, online interactions require supervision and support. Families adopt varied approaches, and there is plenty of good advice online, but some strategies that appear time and again include:

  • Monitoring phones/devices for the apps that are downloaded
  • Using parental controls on phones/devices (see below)
  • Reviewing the messages they send – make monitoring part of a routine
  • Setting expectations about when and where devices are used – communal spaces are generally best!
  • Encouraging them to share or discuss with you what they are doing.

We appreciate the benefits of these forms of communication, and your support and monitoring are key to promoting the positive use of social media. Every St Nicholas learner is a member of our community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and so we are committed to the healthy use of technology for every member of our community.

A strong partnership between home and school is essential in promoting the safe, caring, and prosocial use of technology.  Often, students find themselves as bystanders in groups where unkind exchanges and cyberbullying is taking place. We are obligated and right to guide our young people. If they are witnessing or experiencing cyber-bullying they need our support to inform a trusted adult at home and/or at school so that all involved can receive support. When a child reports a concern at home, parents are asked to share this information with school so that action can be taken.

The more we discuss and educate around these issues, the better. The St. Nicholas PSPE curriculum in Primary and the PSHE curriculum in Secondary have digital citizenship integrated across the years of study.  We take care to address the use of social media platforms and cyberbullying through these programs and case by case, including 1:1 conversations and teaching opportunities as they arise.  Character and values education is a full time and integrated dimension of learning at an IB World School where the attributes of being caring, principled, and open-minded global citizens at the core of all we do.

How can we as parents equip our children when using social media?

KidsHealth.org offers some helpful guidance:

  1. Be nice. Children need to hear that mean behaviour is not OK.
  2. Think twice before hitting “enter”. Privacy matters to everyone.
  3. Follow the WWGS (“What Would Grandma Say”) rule.
  4. Use privacy settings. Talk about the best use of the device and app.
  5. Don’t “friend” strangers. A simple and effective rule.

There is concise, step-by-step guidance on how to set up parental controls on your child’s social media, provided and updated by internetmatters.org

Social media presents our learners with complexities we did not experience in our own childhood.  Complex issues require a collective and concerted effort. We are committed to educating our young people as caring, compassionate, and responsible users of technology. Like every school that strives for excellence, we count on the support, trust, and partnership with our families in sustaining our effort for the benefit of all members of our community.

Author

  • Andrew VanderMeulen

    Andrew VanderMeulen is the Head of School at St. Nicholas Pinheiros. Digital citizenship and the integration of technology in schools, and how these relate to student creativity and well-being, are topics that Andrew enjoys exploring in innovative IB learning environments.

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