To our St Mary’s community,
It is becoming more and more apparent that our teenagers are ill-equipped to cope with the pressures of social media. This is a growing concern shared by not only parents, but also schools. And so, I wish to highlight this issue in this College Connect.
I make to apology in sharing that over the last few months, staff at St Mary’s have observed an increase in problematic online behaviour among students. In almost all cases, these behaviours are occurring outside of school hours. Nevertheless, we are seeing the emotional impact at school.
I am referring to students engaging in social media posts that are rude, offensive, rumour-spreading, belittling, harassing, and threatening. Whilst I am confident I am not speaking about the majority of our students, it is difficult by the very nature of social media to determine the true extent of this issue.
What some students don’t realise is that it is not okay to share, ‘like’ or tag other people in posts such as those I referred to. ‘Liking’ a page just to see what happens there might seem harmless, however it gives bullies a voice and can also give friends, school staff and prospective employers the impression that you endorse the content.
I speak with many families who take proactive steps to prepare and support their children to cope with the demands that come with social media. The parents in these instances go out of their way to know what their child is doing online. There are also sound restrictions put in place. Unfortunately, I also come across families where children are given free roam with devices and little evidence of parental coaching.
At St Mary's we address the issue across several methods, including relevant presentations, cyber safety training for students, reinforcement of school expectations, etc.
Ultimately, families and school staff rely on students making good choices.
The message for our young people is a simple one - do good! Be respectful and be kind. Help create the sort of community on social media that we all want to work, study, live and play in - a community where we look out for one another.
I write this article in the simple hope that it triggers an idea or stirs the need for another conversation you may have with your child about what they do online.