Submitted by Heather Thacore on behalf of Bedford Promise

Courtesy image (c) Bedford Promise, 2019 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

The snow squall didn’t stop Bedford parents from gathering on Wednesday evening at Lane School for an engaging round table discussion about our kids and technology.    There were parents from every school represented and lots of great topics and anecdotes revealed.

While the mission of the Bedford Promise is to reduce, if not eliminate, the social pressure to have a smartphone by making having a smartphone before 8th grade the exception, not the rule.  The other mission of the Promise is general community education and dialogue about all aspects of technology, regardless of whether or not your youngster has their own smart device.

Last night’s Community Chat event was an opportunity to open the floor to all parents to discuss what is and is not working for Bedford families around technology at home and at school.  While there is no silver bullet answer for these challenges, the first critical step of identifying some of the issues are outlined below.  The Promise will look into ways to dig into some of these issues further and help our town share possible solutions.

  • McDermott kicked off the evening by explaining a bit about Digital Citizenship and how this is presented to the kids during both Health Units as well as Library/Media Units. She has noticed a marked drop in managing disputes amongst kids due to the new “no cellphone” policy at JGMS.  There will always be a certain amount of drama at this age, but not having everything digitally captured and posted has had a significant impact for the better.
  • She also talked about the new rules established by the Student Council to ban phones from the cafeteria during school dances. They are allowed in the vestibule outside of the cafeteria but not inside when kids are mustering up the courage to ask someone to dance and kids have to develop the social graces to accept or decline, without having these interactions being posted somewhere.  She received very positive feedback from students about how it let them relax and enjoy the event more.
  • McDermott suggested at one point that when parents use a child’s phone as a punishment for something, maybe also use it as a reward. If the child does something really good at school, they get a few extra minutes of screen time that week.
  • Additionally, she suggested that at Nature’s Classroom kids learn about how to reduce food waste from meals. The first night the kids gather and weigh all of the wasted food.  By the end of the week, the kids all work towards reducing that amount of waste.  Maybe take on a similar challenge at home by the family collectively seeing how much time they are spending on their screens (with the new i-phone settings) and then seeing who can be the biggest reducer of screen time by the end of the week.
  • McDermott said that the previous Assistant Principal was pretty tech savvy and had assembled some guidelines for parents on how to control some of the technology/apps and she was going to try to find that document to share with the group.

Other Parent Feedback Included:

  • When I’m planning or responding to playdate requests, part of my questions include: do your kids have food allergies, what time should the playdate start/stop and what are your rules around technology?
  • My challenge is that when I try to put screen time limits on my middle schooler and they have so much screen time homework, the limits don’t really work. Plus I’m constantly having to check everything there are doing because the homework is overlapping with so much of the social screentime now.  My child uses Facetime when she does homework – is that different from studying together?
  • I’ve tried Disney Circle and it does have some advantages, but the challenges are that it only works on devices registered through the router. If my son is not playing online video games, then it doesn’t count towards his limit.  When my daughter has spent a large portion of her screen time doing homework, I have to quickly go in and add more time.
  • Even though my middle schooler does have a phone whenever we have playdates or sleepovers, we ask the girls to leave their devices at home. If they need to bring the devices they put them into a bowl where they stay for the night unless they need to reach their parents.  The whole point of spending time together is to be together and have fun, not to be stuck on a screen.
  • I heard a great quote recently. Cell phones have done an amazing job of bringing us closer to those that are far away.  But they’ve simultaneously brought us farther away from those that are closest to us.
  • The children see parents doing less of these more direct interactions and are not learning how the protocols of direct interface work.
  • Before my daughter goes on sleepovers now I have to ask the parents if they have rules around technology in their house or if they are going to apply any rules to the guests that are coming over. These are not easy conversations to have because it’s all so new.  But hopefully, it will get easier in time.
  • My child has talked a lot about phones on the Lane school buses and lots of you-tube searches and prank calls happening. It is clear this is not something the bus driver can manage as they are busy driving.  But I haven’t given my children their own smartphones and am very concerned over the bus/phone interactions, especially as I think of next year JGMS bus rides with high schoolers.
  • I’m embarrassed to say how challenging it is to manage my child and the way they use technology. The online video gaming and the distractions, while they should be working on homework, are overwhelming.  He’s currently in a phone blackout stage and it’s still a challenge because he has the school i-pad.  I’ve met with the school and they’ve given us some tips for seeing and tracking how he uses the device, but it’s a CONSTANT battle.
  • I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole with the devices and my middle schooler. As soon as I feel like I’ve got the controls system down and it’s all working ok, some new thing comes out and throws it all off again.
  • I try to be the diligent and responsible parent to which I’m informed that “no one else has these rules and I’m just going to never bring friends home. I’ll play at their house”.
  • My child just takes his high school i-pad, puts an earbud in one ear and plays music during class, totally tuning out the teacher.
  • Why doesn’t the high school have a ban on cell phone/technology use in class? What is the need/benefit for kids to have their phones on them accessible every minute of the day?  Why is it up to each teacher to determine if they’ll allow them or not?
  • I would like to know what the rules are AND consequences for violation of these rules for each school.
  • I find trying to manage the technology and settings control overwhelming and ever-changing – I just can’t keep up.

The Promise will look into creating a community chat board where parents can post their challenges and questions to members of the community so that we can continue to support each other outside of these semi-annual events.

Stay tuned for future events hosted by the Bedford Promise.

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