Page 11 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Staff spending ‘many hours investigating and dealing with unpleasant and inappropriate use’ Social Media dangers
& the ‘Fomo’ problem
David Lloyd, headmaster of Solihull School, West Midlands, is concerned about the rising number of pre-teens using social media. Here, he discusses what schools can do to ensure pupils have a healthier relationship with technology...
Social media is undergoing a period of rapid growth and I see no signs of this abating in the future – in fact, quite the opposite.
There are many bene ts of networking in this way and the vast majority of users do so appropriately and responsibly. However, I am deeply concerned about the increasing number of pre-teens having their own social media accounts.
Not only does this place the young person at risk, but it also creates and fuels avoidable problems for parents and schools.
The minimum age to open an account on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, musical.ly and Snapchat is 13. Bearing in mind that the platforms are working on the assumption a child is over 13, the possible risks for pre-teens accessing the sites are very real.
At Solihull School, we have taken
a number of steps to ensure all our pupils engage with social media and technology appropriately, through our dialogue with pupils, parents, colleagues and alumni.
For some time now, we have restricted access to social media on school computers and school Wi- Fi, and for the  rst time we have recently restricted the use of phones during the school day. Given that we are a town centre site with many pupils using public transport and that technology education is important, mobile phones are not banned but must be switched off and out of sight.
Far from this making us appear like luddites or killjoys, we’re delighted to report that the change has been embraced by all parties.
Importantly, pupils have embraced the change, in many cases with
relief. We can already see more face-to-face interaction as they get used to spending less time on their phones during the school day. They also feel less peer pressure to have the latest phone.
Having the support of parents is a key part of this change, as they help promote appropriate and responsible uses when pupils are away from the classroom.
We offer parent seminars on the use of social media and online behaviour, and we have signi cant approval from the staff and parental body who were frustrated with the intrusive distraction and over-reliance on technology.
In the classroom, we are taking steps to make changes in both the short and long term.
Our pupils already have age- appropriate instruction in their personal, social, health and economic education (PSHEE) programme, ensuring they are equipped with the tools to fully understand the impact social media can have on their education and wellbeing.
Our stance on this issue is part
of our new character education programme, which will form a more formal part of the curriculum from September 2018. This will
be informed by our current ‘Curriculum 2020’ project, which aims to plug the skills gap so often discussed by universities and employers.
We make it clear to our pupils
that they are part of a supportive community within the school, but in return they realise they too have a responsibility to themselves and others. This is an important part of our ethos.
With this in mind, we still allow our Sixth Form students to use
their phones in the Sixth Form Centre. This gives them more independence, but is granted on the understanding that they need to be role models outside of that building.
We hope that by making these positive changes across all age groups, we can start to see a change in attitudes to social media in the school and a reduction in some of the issues it can cause, as well as tackling the psychological dependency on technology we increasingly observe.
My colleagues and I spend many hours investigating and dealing with unpleasant and inappropriate use of social media in the younger year groups – particularly Year 7 and Year 8, and much of this takes place outside of school. Inevitably, many parents and children get caught up in these investigations and a lot of avoidable upset occurs. It often becomes clear that many parents are uncomfortable with their young child’s engagement with social media and several
felt they had to say ‘yes’ to their children having accounts because ‘everyone else has them’.
It seems pupils are increasingly suffering from the social media condition, FOMO (fear of missing out). Understandably, this fear
is shared by many parents even though they are worried about what their child might encounter when joining in.
FOMO has arguably replaced ‘keeping up with the Joneses’
and is the anxiety created by the thought of missing out on an activity or event. It is a modern syndrome driven by technology and instant communication and affects many pupils, as well as parents
on behalf of their children. The angst is very real and is extremely
Solihull School headteacher David EJJ Lloyd
detrimental to wellbeing, with young people failing to appreciate the joy of the present and catastrophising about the future.
My advice to parents, based on my experience, is to trust their instincts. There are many very good reasons why pre-teens should not have social media platforms designed for teenagers and adults before they are emotionally mature enough to deal with the exposure it brings and the consequences thereafter.
Whilst we at Solihull School will continue to do our very best
to safeguard children and alert parents when we are made aware of inappropriate behaviour on social media, a considerable amount of time and upset would be saved if, collectively, the parent body joined forces with schools in protecting our younger pupils.
From my vantage point, a lot more harm than good comes from having too much, too soon when it comes to social media.
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