With the popularity of technology and social media constantly rising, pre-teens and teens are exposed to everything the internet offers form the good to the bad.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2015, 92 percent of preteens and teens go online every day and 24 percent indicated their usage was almost constant. More than half of the survey sample, 56 percent, was age 13 to 17. Seventy-one percent of preteens and teens also use more than one social media site, with Facebook reporting 71 percent usage, followed by Instagram with 52 percent and Snapchat with 41 percent. The study cited that these social sites have risen to become a prominent role in the lives of pre-teens and teens alike.
Mike Griffith, head of school at the Lillian and Betty Ratner School in Pepper Pike, and Jim Kennedy, dean of students at Menlo Park Academy in Cleveland, both said the exposure led them to implement regulations in hopes of controlling social media and electronics usage while in school and to protect students from sites they shouldn’t be accessing.
At Menlo Park Academy, Kennedy said each student receives a Chromebook to assist with studies and the school makes it clear the computer is to be used for research and schoolwork-related purposes and not recreation. Each computer has a firewall over social sites. Cellphones aren’t permitted to be used within school hours, but can be kept in a student’s locker.
“Of course, you’ll find kids doing what they aren’t supposed to be doing, but that’s a simple redirection,” he said. “We do have a disciplinary policy where the first time is a warning from the teacher and the second is a note home and the third warning gets their Chromebook taken away.”
Griffith said he is most concerned about students using social media to replace face-to-face interaction.
“Sitting with someone and seeing them face to face and having the ability to connect is not just effective, but far more appropriate in many situations,” he said. “It’s more human interaction and relationship community building and we want to focus on person-to-person learning.”
Kennedy said he does believe the major use of social media within the pre-teen age group is causing kids to ‘grow up’ quicker and it’s causing parents to have conversations with them earlier than one would usually have to because some of the content preteens are exposed to on the internet and social media.
“I’m thinking back to when I was in high school and we didn’t have all of that information available,” he said. “You’d ask friends and things like that, but now kids can look it up and they are seeing different age ranges and activities and putting themselves in those shoes. It’s over adulting them and I think it’s taking parents off-guard.”
Griffith said he didn’t think social media was making children mature faster, but actually the opposite because the over-usage of social media could cause them to develop in ways that may need to be countered later in life.
“I don’t think they are maturing, but they are being pushed and challenged by a lot of issues that are now in front in front of them which they may be ill-prepared for or not mature enough to be able to deal with,” he said. “That, more than anything is one of the most challenging and difficult parts of social media. They are developmentally not at a point where they need to be working through the things they may see.”
Griffith and Kennedy said parents and schools need to work together to monitor social media and technology usage.
“I think with parents, you want to be able to sit down and have an open and honest conversation with their child,” Kennedy said. “They can’t go into it blindly. You can’t just tell them not to do something because it won’t work as well. You need to show reasoning. You need to let that child know that you trust them and focus on the positive side. Explaining why something could be harmful at their age shows that you trust them to make the right decision.”