I often learn a lot from presenting to students at different schools. I get the opportunity to not only work with them but also learn about their favorite online activities, websites and interests. The more I hear about specific sites or activities mentioned, the better I can understand what will be the next big thing. And, more importantly, I get a good sense of the sites I need to investigate. I’ve also learned so much working with school staff. I started hearing about a complaint several years ago that was recently brought up again by a school staffer so I wanted to mention it.
It seems as though one of the biggest problems within our schools comes from students’ use of cell phones. Now you might imagine all the problems that can arise from cell phone use – cyberbullying, sexting, cheating, etc. Cell phones can serve as great distractions and although most schools have policies about cell phone use, students generally ignore these and still use their phones during school hours. But the biggest complaint regarding student cell phone use comes from something most people don’t give much thought to. The problem is that parents are texting their kids during school hours. A school counselor recently told me that the school has difficulty addressing this issue with the parents who are causing the problem themselves.
Parents may text their kids during the school day to say, “I’ll be late picking you up,” “How’s your day going,” “I love you,” or, at times, even engaging their kids in online games! Most of these examples seem harmless but what did we do as parents when few kids had cell phones? If there was ever an emergency, you would call the school office and your child would be notified. Whatever the message was, it would find its way to your child and life would go on. I’m all for reaching out and telling our kids we love them or are thinking of them, but is it so important to text these messages? A very low-tech solution is to hand write such a message that you can leave in their lunch box or backpack – I just can’t think of any non-emergency message so important that it would require interrupting your child during the school day. The last thing a teacher should have to deal with is disciplining a student because they violated school policies due to their parents’ texts. It’s time to cut the umbilical cord.
According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project that surveyed over 2,000 adults, 88% appreciate the way cell phones allow them to arrange plans with family and friends. 42% say they get irritated when a call or text interrupts them and 86% find it rude when others check their phones repeatedly during meetings or conversations. Well, isn’t that what you could be causing your kids to do at school? Are we teaching them the same bad behavior that, according to this survey, is perceived as rude?
A newer problem arising from the increasing use of phones in school is that many kids these days have smartphones with easy online access. So now, while checking your latest text message, they might then see that someone posted on their Facebook wall, then realize they haven’t updated their status lately, then notice a rumor online about a classmate, and so on. They not only risk getting in trouble at school but also there’s the increased chance of getting involved in cyberbullying or damaging their online reputation in some way. So my point is to let your kids focus on school when they’re at school, and have the freedom to spend time on social networking sites and doing other online activities outside of classroom hours. They’ll be able to concentrate more when doing these things separately, and you won’t have to feel guilty for sending them a text message that lands them in detention!
Officer Steve DeWarns
Founder of InternetChildSafety.net
Advisor to SocialShield, Inc.
Thanks to one of SocialShield’s very own advisors for contributing this guest blog post!