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In the Middle of It All

Middle School Musings by Trevor O’Driscoll, Bancroft's Head of Middle School

Most weeks, MS Head Trevor O’Driscoll writes a short note to parents and faculty about middle school, education, parenting, and other topics relevant to our community. We share these Middle School Musings here for the benefit and enjoyment of all who are interested. Read recent entries, browse the archives, and delight in Mr. O’Driscoll’s take on our Middle School and the amazing people who inhabit it.

 

 

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Helping Kids Navigate their Online Lives: A Parental Cheatsheet

Parenting an online generation can be tricky, especially for those adults who reside closer to the Luddite end of the digital comfort spectrum. Maybe the parents of the first generation of teen drivers, they themselves out-of-touch horse and buggy pilots, would have been able to empathize with us.  

Often parents ask me for advice about how they might help their kids navigate a social life partially lived online. What follows is merely a modern version of what successful parents have been long doing: praise, supervise, ask questions, and network.

  • Pay attention
    You can, and should, be reading your child’s online communication including texts, posts, group chats, Instagram — all that you can imagine. For those of you who feel slightly squeamish and wonder about privacy, remember that you pay the bills for the devices. Just be upfront with your kids about how you plan on monitoring their online presence.

  • The audience can be huge and eternal
    Remind them their potential audience is always infinitely bigger than their intended audience, and their digital words can have an incomprehensible permanence.
  • Repeat a simple question
    Help them remember the following questions before they hit send:
    1) How would you feel if grandma read this? and,
    2) Is it kind, is it true, and is it necessary?
    A dispositive answer to any of these questions could help kids hit the brakes. and the simplicity can encourage self-monitoring.
  • Talk when things are fine
    Talk to them about their online lives when there is no problem. Don’t wait for a major flare-up to be the catalyst for conversations about what it means to live a digital life.
  • Have them teach you
    Ask them to show you how they navigate the online world. Come at it as a genuinely curious and interested student who wants to learn from an expert. Empowering children and validating the fact that there are times when they know more than you can lead to unexpected and productive outcomes.
  • Talk to other parents
    Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to the parents of your child’s friends. This is especially true if you see undesirable activity happening right before your eyes.
  • Remember kids make mistakes
    Seizing teachable moments and enforcing immediate consequences are important. It’s also important to put yourself in their shoes. How tough it would it have been for you if some of the mistakes you made along the way were part of a permanent, written record, shareable by all? Besides, often a mistake is the perfect opportunity to to create a sticky memory. Embrace the mistakes.
  • Remember kids make great choices
    When you see a behavior you hope to see again, praise it specifically and immediately.
  • Practice what you preach
    Kids pay attention and they look for models, while being hypervigilant as they notice hypocrisy. 
Posted by Trevor O'Driscoll on Friday October, 21, 2016 at 12:06PM
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