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21 Sep 2018

Alex Hems: Head's Blog Sept 21, 2018

A2.SMY AlexHems096 Crop 250wTechnology and Social Media – Tools not tyrants 

There are of course so many quite different concepts that we group together under the term technology. We recognise the role that computers and innovative software can play in the classroom and in your daughters’ learning. We recognise the importance of giving all the girls at St George’s skills that they will need in their future working lives, and for some who may wish to pursue very specialist careers in computing or the technological industries, we give them, as far as it is possible at school level, the foundations that they will need to succeed.

And then of course, there is social media – hosted on devices more powerful than the computers that sent men into space in the 1960s and 70s but that are now ubiquitous, sitting in our pockets, in our hands or next to us on our desks or kitchen tables.

When your daughters were small you taught them to cross the road safely and gradually you gave them more freedom, in ways appropriate to their age.  When motorised vehicles first took to the roads, there was a free-for-all, a great many accidents and dire predictions about where it would all end and how. In due course, however, we developed laws, driving tests and the highway code to make our roads relatively safe places. To those of us who are definitely ‘digital immigrants’ rather than ‘digital natives’ it can sometimes feel as though we are currently in a similar position regarding social media.  For many this is a world that they navigate with ease and some skill, maintaining worthwhile friendships in the real world and good balance in their lives. Others find this much harder to achieve; for some self-esteem and sense of worth become inextricably bound up with their on-line world,  and there is of course the potential that the smart phone becomes a tool for carrying unkindness and bullying right into a child’s bedroom, where she ought to feel 100% safe.  We are all aware of the impact on wellbeing and happiness of striving to meet an unattainable, imagined ideal of perfection, but perhaps for us as adults that is easier to keen in perspective than it is for adolescents, for whom the desire to fit in and be accepted by their peers can be so overwhelming.  We are also becoming increasingly alert to the fear of missing out which dominates many young lives and to the effect on mental health that over-dependence on devices and social media can have.

Over the past few weeks we have been working with the girls, surveying them, the staff and you as well, about habits and attitudes towards social media and your phones. Thank you very much to all of you who made time to take part in our survey.

MorganHeadShot201Yesterday we welcomed Nicola Morgan, award-winning author of Blame My Brain, The Teenage Guide to Life Online and The Teenage Guide to Stress, to work with Primary 6 up to Upper 6, and in the evening she spoke to parents too. Her message is one of balance. She was keen to tell the girls that she was not here to lecture them and tell them that their phones are bad for them, and indeed recognised the value in much that we might be doing when we are ‘on our phones’. She did ask us all, however, to reflect on the things that we might not be doing if we were checking our social media every few minutes: the face to face contact with friends that is so essential to human wellbeing; time spent out of doors; physical activity; reading for pleasure and other hobbies; time when we just let our minds wander and allow ourselves to be creative.  She did speak too of the effect that the presence of a phone or other screen can have on concentration and of the potential for addiction that is embedded in the way that much software is designed. There was a strong message for us as adults about the way in which we model the behaviour we would like to see in young people.

We would like to work together with you to help all our daughters to manage their relationship with social media healthily and to establish sustainable habits which will see them through into adulthood.  As a parent myself I know what a challenge this can be, but I am determined that this is an area in which we can make a difference over the coming weeks and months.

Further resources written by Nicola Morgan on this topic can be found at 

https://www.nicolamorgan.com/life-online/free-life-online-parent-pack/

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