Social media and teens – helpful rules for happy households

Does social media expose your child to danger?

Possibly, but I believe the risks can be reduced, as long as we’re prepared to be curious about how the younger gen consumes digital media, and understand how they are using social platforms so we can make sure they’re doing so safely and age-appropriately.

At the end of summer term, my school held a disco to celebrate year six students finishing primary school. To capture this momentous occasion, students were allowed to bring in smart phones/mobile devices (normally banned during school hours).

They embraced this freedom with vigorous enthusiasm. My colleagues and I watched in amazement as the serious selfie-obsession (video and photos) unfolded before our eyes. Sadly, some students preferred to play on their devices, engrossed in games (missing the significance of the event) and chatting with friends online, who were at the disco! We also witnessed some students vent frustration and anger at not being able to upload their images. They were missing out on ‘likes’, you see; the more ‘likes’ achieved, the more popular they perceive themselves to be. Not a totally healthy reflection of real life – thanks Kim K and co.!

Did you know, the most frequent activity amongst children today is engaging in social media? Any site which allows your child to interact socially, such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube and gaming portals are all classed as social media.

I’ll be honest, I love social media and technology. This digital revolution means we benefit from a fantastic flow of information, learning and open communication. But, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility,’ and this applies to adults (parents, teachers, carers) and children, who of course due to age, are more vulnerable to peer pressure and dangers of digital as they experiment in this space.

It’s no great secret that the digital age has a dark side, and there can be collateral damage associated with it. There are many dangers kids will encounter on their journey through adolescence, including as they navigate social media and its boundaries. Remember, this is NOT about your child being naive, immature, untrustworthy or naughty – kids are kids, and there’s only so much they can be expected to navigate safely on their own.

What are the dangers?

  • cyber bullying,
  • sexual predators,
  • criminals,
  • sharing or consumption of inappropriate photos and video
  • sharing too much information which can lead to anything from your home being burgled, to a young person sharing photos-not-set-for-public-consumption, tagged with your precise physical location!

As a parent (and teacher, for that matter), if you lack a basic understanding of social media, and find it difficult to communicate with digitally-confident children, you are manifesting a disconnect between you and the youngster in your care.

Here are ways to help you navigate this new socialisation and to bridge that technical gap.

Social media and teens – helpful rules

  1. Talk to your child about specific issues they may be dealing with, or what other children may be encountering online.
  2. Become curious and better educated about the many technologies children and teenagers are using. There are plenty of ways you can learn more – local courses, YouTube tutorials, personal coaches or simply ask questions on areas that are new to you.
  3. Instigate family discussions concerning online topics; check privacy settings (including location settings on mobile devices), and keep an eye on online profiles for inappropriate posts. On the point of security, if you’re worried, seek advice and assistance from your local mobile phone store, an IT or digital media consultant, or speak to your mobile / broadband provider.
  4. Discuss the importance of your supervising online activities, through active participation and communication. If the child in your care is out with friends or socialising and playing somewhere in the ‘real world’, I’d expect you would know where they are, who they are with and that they’re being effectively supervised. The same rules apply to online activity. You should be aware of ‘where’ online they are hanging out, and who it is they’re liaising with. Wonder how kids can get into trouble? Press play on the video linked above – you’ll realise why it’s important to take control.
  5. Keep all devices in a public area in the home such as places you can monitor as you’re cooking or wandering through a room e.g. lounge, kitchen, dining. I’d also urge you to seriously consider why any child needs to take a mobile device to bed… (actually, we adults shouldn’t either – it’s a dreadful habit – put them away at night!).
  6. Have a strategy in place for if/when your child may be exposed to inappropriate content.
  7. Set aside quality time with your child doing things they are interested in, and vary activities across digital and real-life platforms.
  8. All adults lead busy hectic lives, but it’s our responsibility to make time, be informed and implement safety strategies for online activity, just as we do for anything our kids are involved with.

Child psychologist, Dr Richard Woolfson believes, “Parents need to maintain an open dialogue and encourage children to share both good and bad online experiences, and make sure they keep up with the latest social media crazes, and work with their children rather than trying to control them.”

The world is a different place to when we were children, and things are vastly changed compared with even as recently as ten years ago. As a parent or carer, it’s critically important to remain aware and prepared for how this type of communication and technology truly impacts and works in kids’ lives and in the home. Develop rules that fit best in your household – just because another family does it one way, if a certain rule or process doesn’t sit right with you, use your discretion. Above all, seek information and educate yourself – it’s not good enough to claim that new technology ‘aint your thing! But who knows, by learning something more, you might end up enjoying this new frontier as much as the kids do.

-By Cooper Dawson

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7 tips to encourage your child to read

I strongly believe that to help a child reach their learning potential, it’s important parents and teachers encourage reading. Students are more likely to do well in school if they read; even if writing and reading isn’t a child’s favourite thing, literacy skills can be developed over time, and this means that life in and outside of the classroom can be all the more enjoyable and successful, at all ages.

School is made easier too, which is a really critical reason why you should encourage your child to read. A strong reader has a broader vocabulary, wider general knowledge and an increased understanding of cultures (important for thriving and developing compassion in our contemporary multicultural society).

Parents/guardians, it’s vital you show an interest in your child’s reading development, because you are your child’s first and ultimate life-long educator.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” –Emily Buchwald

Why you should encourage your child to read

7 tips on how to influence your child to love reading

  1. Read with your with child every day

Make your child read aloud for fifteen minutes, ensuring they stop for punctuation, difficult words and share ideas on what the meaning of the story is. Children who read have a broader vocabulary which helps in their writing and exam tasks. Also, ask your child to explain to you what they have read (e.g. talk about characters, setting, understanding of the topic and themes); this is vital in helping kids succeed in future exams and assignments.

  1. Choose reading material of interest to the reader

I always say to parents that I don’t care what kids are reading, as long as they are reading! Ensure children are reading their favourite material, whatever it may be (although do encourage consumption of a variety of genres and media (books, magazines, digital content) as your children grow. They’ll be more engaged across the board, and happier to de-construct (talk to you about) it.

However, if you find a child struggles to read the text, they may be reading above their ability; if you perceive there are issues, talk to a teacher to determine what the child’s reading level is. It’s better to work from where they are at. The aim is to make reading (and subsequent writing and literacy tasks) enjoyable, not challenging.

  1. Be patient and make literacy learning fun

It’s important that reading is presented as an enjoyable experience. As a parent, be patient. If you feel your little one is encountering difficulties, be supportive and encouraging. Remember, the main aim of reading is to make it fun; and, practice makes perfect – all the more reason this should continue outside of the classroom and into the home with regularity.

  1. Link to the outside world

Children want to see that what they’re reading is connecting to their ‘outside world’. As a family, it’s a great idea to research a topic together. For example, if you’re going on a holiday, investigate the destination together. Or, if your child is into games / gaming, take this opportunity to read reviews on the applications of interest to them. Reading is about what your child likes, not what you like. Embrace that – it will mean they are more engaged in the reading process and will feel uplifted and appreciated becasue you respect their opinions.

  1. Play [literacy] games

There are hundreds and hundreds of literacy games on the internet as well as app downloads on mobile devices; these are fun and interactive. We all know that kids are tech savvy so this is an ideal chance for your child to explain to you how a particular game works. This activity positions them as the expert in the situation, while giving them a chance to read and explain on topics of interest with enthusiasm. Simply search for relevant games on Google, or seek ideas from your child’s school.

  1. Experiment with audio books

I find audio books are an excellent way of introducing children to stories read by passionate presenters who can make the words on the page come alive. Kids can read along while building their vocabulary.

It’s also helpful if you read in small passages with your child, and have them apply their comprehension skills as they move through a story, explaining characters, setting and theme along the way.

  1. Weave literacy learnings with a field trip

It’s important to surround your child with books and writing, whether this be at home, on a field trip to a community or school library, university or book store.

In this experience, children will witness first-hand how books contribute to education, knowledge and development; and that reading is a life-long practice, not just something that you do in school.

Importantly, parents – your role is critical in influencing your child to be an enthusiastic reader. If you don’t show an interest, they won’t. Your kids model behaviour, so demonstrate that reading and writing is fun, important, and makes for a fulfilling future.

Cooper Dawson

Feature image via Flickr creative commons, US Department of Education

The importance of fostering positive teacher-student relationships

kidsWho was your favourite teacher growing up and what do you remember most about them? I’m confident most of you would describe how they made you feel and the sense of excitement and the confidence you felt on your road to discovery.

The function of a teacher is both diverse and meaningful. Teachers have a greater responsibility than simply standing in front of a class delivering material. It is now mandatory for them to teach social values and etiquette, mediate conflicts and most importantly develop positive-teacher student relationships.

A child’s academic and social development hinges on a teacher’s capacity to develop a positive and long lasting relationship. Students who have a healthy relationship with their teacher are more likely to achieve gains or experience success when they feel valued and respected than students who don’t have a personnel connection to the teacher. A student is more likely to show more engagement in an academic setting and display less disruptive behaviour when they experience regular communication, praise and guidance from their teacher. Positive teacher-student relationships promotes their desire to learn.

Canter and Canter (1997) make the statement that we all can recall classes in which we did not try very hard because we didn’t like our teachers. This should remind us how important it is to have strong, positive relationships with our students.

Imagine for a moment. You have a boss who makes you feel valued, respected and appreciates you as an individual. Are you more likely please your boss? How would you then feel if your boss didn’t value you as a person and lacked respect for you? This is how a child feels. That’s is why it’s critical to develop a positive supportive classroom environment. It’s important to remember, students are more willing to want to please you and behave appropriately when they are treated with respect and appreciated.

What to do │ fostering positive teacher-student relationships

  • Be patient, engage in conversation and actively listen
  • Get to know each child, the lives they live and learn about their interests and needs
  • Spend time with them individuality and seek out the those who are reluctant or problematic
  • Show students you want them to be successful through words and actions
  • Create a positive environment and enhance relationships among peers

What not to do  │  fostering positive teacher-student relationships

  • Accept that treating a child with respect and being nice is enough. Teachers set high standards for their students and encourage opportunities for students to make a personal connection with their teachers and their peers.
  • Don’t admit defeat too quickly in your efforts to develop a positive teacher-student relationship.

Rita Pierson states, “It’s hard to learn if you don’t feel connected. Which means that kids don’t just need a teacher, they need a champion, someone who believes in them, invests in them, nurtures in them the belief that they can be more than they are, that all kinds of things they don’t imagine are possible”.

By Cooper Dawson