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Empowering Young Digital Citizens: A School-Parent Collaboration to Navigate Social Media in Primary Grades

Dear WIS Community,


Over the past few weeks, our school assemblies in the Primary School have focused on the  topic of digital media use. Building upon our Common Sense Media curriculum, classes explored this subject and shared their insights. The central questions guiding our discussions were:


* How can I communicate effectively and positively to build relationships?

* How can I use media in healthy ways that give meaning and add value to my life?

* How can I connect positively, treat others respectfully, and create a culture of kindness?

I was a very proud principal when I heard the type of deep and thoughtful answers the grade 3-5 students had come up with as a result of the lessons they had done in class! Here are a few of their wonderful contributions to our discussion during assembly:

 

"Constantly seeing unrealistic body images on social media can really mess with your self-esteem and body image. You might start feeling pressure to look a certain way or think that you're not attractive enough. This can lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or even eating disorders.”

 

"Social media can be addictive because it's designed to keep us coming back for more. When we get likes, comments, or followers, it makes us feel good, and we want to experience that feeling again and again. But spending too much time on social media can take us away from important things like studying, playing outside, or spending time with family and friends. It's important to set limits and make sure we're not letting social media control our lives."

 

"Social media platforms use algorithms and techniques that can make them very addictive. They keep showing us content that they think we'll like, and the constant notifications and rewards can make us feel like we need to keep checking and scrolling. This can lead to a cycle of addiction where we feel anxious or upset when we're not on social media, and it starts to interfere with our daily lives. It's important to set boundaries to ensure that we're using social media in a healthy and balanced way."


"When we use social media, we need to be careful about what information we share online. Sometimes, people can use our personal information, like our full name, address, or school, to do bad things or trick us.  If something makes us feel uncomfortable or unsafe, we should always tell a trusted adult."


As we navigate the digital age, it's essential to consider the role of social media in our children's lives, especially at the primary school level. Experts advise caution and parental involvement and most social media platforms have age restrictions, typically requiring users to be at least 13 years old, in compliance with privacy protection laws. However, even with these safeguards in place, young children may still face risks such as exposure to inappropriate content, cyber bullying, and potential negative impacts on mental health. 


As educators, we recognise that media education extends far beyond the classroom walls. It is a shared responsibility between parents and the school, as a significant portion of children's media consumption occurs outside of school hours.  By working together, we can create a safe and supportive environment for our children's online experiences.


As we are nearing the winter break, I am sharing a few powerful strategies and principles you can use to guide your children's digital lives.  Parenting in the digital age can be challenging.  However, you don't need to be a tech expert to make a positive impact. By embracing three key digital parenting principles, you can set the standards for your children's online safety and digital citizenship, now and in the future:


1. Family Media Boundary – Parents have clear family tech rules and principles to provide children with proper protection and guidance. 


  • Parents set clear family rules and principles on technology and media that parents and children can abide by together.

  • Parents model appropriate media use, which includes media rules for both children and parents, such as not using devices at meals, having media in common rooms, and not having personal media in bedrooms.

  • Healthy family habits maintain a variety of activities, keeping media use in moderation, including having meals together, playing games, reading, etc.


This will help digital citizenship in the areas of:


  • Balanced Use of Technology

  • Digital Citizen Identity

  • Digital Empathy

  • Behavioural Cyber-Risk Management

  • Personal Cyber-Security Management

  • Digital Footprint Management

  • Privacy Management


2. Parental Engagement – Parents engage in open and supportive active mediation to minimise negative effects and maximise positive effects of media use. Parents can nurture family values in children through technology, support children's social and emotional growth, and empower them to make the right choices online.


  •  This involves proactively talking with children about their favourite apps, games, or websites and discussing various aspects of cyber-risks (such as privacy invasion, cyber-bullying, gaming addiction, etc).

  • Parents share media activities with their children as part of family life, engaging together by viewing the same TV shows or movies, playing the same games, or browsing the Internet to build trust and share media experiences.

  • Parents keep lines of communication open while asking about children's online experiences and any issues they may be facing.

  • Parents reassure their children that they are doing everything possible to keep them safe and that they can always come to them, no matter what.


This will help digital citizenship in the areas of:


  • Balanced Use of Technology

  • Digital Empathy

  • Media and Information Literacy

  • Behavioural Cyber-Risk Management

  • Personal Cyber-Security Management

  • Digital Citizen Identity


3. Family Network – Parents set a healthy digital environment for children – from connectivity, support network to seeking help as needed based on knowledge of tech trends and their impact on children.


  • Parents provide good digital access to children with an understanding of their own and their children's digital use habits at home (e.g., how many devices, what device their children connect on which network).

  • Parents understand the trends and research about benefits and potential risks of technology.

  • They understand how technology affects children's well-being and development, such as brain development, school grades, and mental health.

  • Parents develop a good support and protection network around their children, beginning with consistent digital parenting policies among all caregivers within their house (e.g., partner, grandparents, babysitter, etc).

  • Parents proactively work with school teachers related to their children's online schooling and cyber-protection.

  • Parents know when and how to seek external help, including a school counsellor, psychologist, police, or other professional experts as necessary.


This will help digital citizenship in the areas of:


  • Digital Citizen Identity

  • Balanced Use of Technology

  • Digital Empathy

  • Behavioural Cyber-Risk Management

  • Personal Cyber-Security Management


By elevating the standards in children's digital lives, and joining hands with the school, we can guide them to use technology wisely. 


Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


Warm regards,


Marcelle van Leenen | Primary School Principal


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