A Heartfelt Appeal from a Caring Principal
We live in such a busy world where many morals and values have taken a back seat and parenting styles are vastly different to when we were children. Obviously we need to move with the times and adapt methods of parenting to the issues of the moment, but the bottom line is that common sense should still prevail and parents should still be parents and not ‘pals’. This came through very clearly in a recent article from our school newsletter, written by our Senior Primary principal, Gareth Allman. With his permission I have posted it below:
Dear Parents and Pupils
As I am going to pen words of caution once again on this topic, I fear that people might believe that I am not a fan of technology and social media, and that thereby my words might lose credibility. Allow me to say that this is not at all the case – I am a huge, albeit amateurish, user of technology!
The role of Blackberry’s instant messaging platforms in the riots on the streets of London is by now well documented. The disturbing video footage of youths going on the rampage and looting stores is a vivid reality check of how something as simple as a phone can create so much damage. It was brought to my attention last week that many of our pupils are playing a game on their phones called ‘AMS’. This is an acronym for ‘ Ask Me Something’. Whilst it could be innocent, this is sadly not the case, with many questions being posed requesting strong lurid and sensual feedback. Now I know I could be perceived as an old crock and that when I was 12, if we had had cell phones, my questions would have been along the lines of, “Do you have petrol for your scrambler?”, or “How many pellets do you have for your pellet gun?” in advance of a walk in the bush! Yes, our children are growing up in a different environment and that’s not going to change. But this does not mean that we throw our arms up in the air, despair, and wish for the ‘old days’. It is incumbent on us as teachers and parents to be pro-active in the management of our children. I would even go so far as to say many parents need to take back the ownership and rights of parenting.
Children need to be checked on. And whilst they might retort with something along the lines of, “Don’t you trust me?”, this is not the essence of child rearing. In fact, parents might well be able to say that you do trust them. You trust that they will make mistakes! And that it is your responsibility to help them to learn from their mistakes.
Children need to be taught that they need to think before they post something. They need to understand that a social media mistake cannot be erased. They need to understand that a bad post can lead to bad reputations. They need to ask themselves, “Will I be comfortable with my father or grandmother reading this?”. It is way too easy to write something and ‘hide behind a screen’. They need to ask, “Will I be comfortable in asking this to an audience such as my class?” They need to understand that acceptable behaviour is not only required in public space, but in cyber space too. That Scotland Yard warned last week that those inciting violence on Twitter will be sought out and punished, shows the need for smart cyber space behaviour.
A fortnight ago I wrote about positive discipline. The follow through of that is consequences. Consequences are necessary in that they help modify behaviour. They transfer the need to be responsible from the parent to the child and place the problem squarely on the shoulders of the child. If boundaries have been determined for acceptable use of a phone, and they have been breached, take away the phone. Take back your right as a parent and do not fall into emotional games.
So, what are we as a school doing to educate our pupils in this regard? Besides the pastoral care and on-going incidental interventions, some parents may be aware that we are developing our own Life Orientation curriculum so that it is relevant to the needs of our pupils. One module that has been introduced is around the issues of being ‘cyber smart’. Mrs Stadler has also published a brochure called ‘Staying in Touch’ which was distributed to pupils and parents in the first term. In addition we are in the process of securing a guest speaker to address the Grade 6’s about being cyber smart.