Pre-teens need help to develop social media resilience

A recent study for the Children’s Commissioner looked at the impact of social media on 11 and 12 year olds as they move into senior school. The children were described as “falling off a cliff edge”: suddenly having access to new phones and new technologies, with no previous experience and no advice or education on how to deal with the onslaught of “friending” and other on-line activities. This may indeed be true, although I suspect that the idea that children are all naive at this age is itself naive; some will have been using social media (albeit against the rules) for a while and the vast majority of them will be well aware of their parents’ social media behaviour and will have appeared (willingly or not) in many posts on Facebook, Instagram and other sites over the years.

 

When the girls arrive at LEH, they have iPads to use in lessons and at home, some for the first time. One of the key reasons for introducing iPads for teaching and learning is to ensure that LEH pupils become experts at using these devices as tools, for their benefit, with a critical eye. I frequently say that we aim to teach the girls to control the devices, not be controlled by them. Included in this learning are PSHE sessions on the reality of social media: the fact that the lives portrayed on-line are all in some way or other, “glammed up”. The very least that all users of Facebook etc... do is to leave out all the bad bits; and I suspect that the vast majority of users are adept at up-grading their experiences and lives so as to appear far more exciting and interesting than they really are. This goes for photos as well – photo-shopping isn’t just used by models and celebrities now, we’re all at it!  We spend a lot of time in school de-mystifying on-line stories and encouraging a critical viewing eye for ALL content, not just the professionally stuff.

 

Convincing your children not to take these posts so seriously is not an easy job, I wouldn’t pretend that it is, and I think we can achieve more if we work together at home and at school. Not all of you will find it easy to control your children’s use of technology, and many parents appreciate all the help they can get on this front. To that end, we offer several opportunities during the year for you to learn more about what your children might be up to on-line and how you might monitor this, advise and support your children, and control their use of social media (and perhaps your own!). This term I am delighted to remind you that The Parent Practice will be delivering three sessions focusing specifically on how best to parent teenage girls. This will include one of the biggest influencers they now all face: the internet, social media, and all things technological.  If you are struggling to know how best to manage this, please do put these dates into your diary: 22 February and 5 March.