Our students are developing and employing contemporary skills as a core component of their education. This includes with ICT and the Surface Pros are to allow our students greater scope with their learning than ever before. The devices allow students to collaborate, communicate, think critically on information and create in relevant and new ways.
To support the appropriate use of ICT we have policies in place. Further to this, the teachers who share the challenge of working with our 11-15 year olds, see the daily reality of appropriate, as well as distracting, use. The answer to some of the challenges that we observe some students facing with using technology, as tempting as it may be in the short-term, is not to ban them. Rather, it’s about learning and us as the teachers to do what we do best and get involved helping the students with this. This means;
- we establish and consistently reinforce how to use the device, when to use it and what for…being active, getting involved, asking the questions, insisting on on-task behaviour and use;
- phones are not to be used in class unless permission sought and granted (the request may be to contact a parent as sport pick-up arrangements have changed during the day, to search for information or look up their calendar). If a student strays from this, and they’ve been supported and have still made this choice, it will be taken away and returned at the end of the day; and
- these expectations for learning and consequences also hold true for wellbeing support, as well as transgressions, using ICT.
Here we regularly educate students on having a positive and respectful online footprint, and on safe online behaviours. The average adolescent now spends much time online. The traditional pillars to an adolescent’s world: Family, Friends, School and their Inner-self, where in order to be a happy and thriving individual, contentment is required across all areas, has been added to – a 5th pillar is the ‘Online’ world. For many teens today, there will not be a distinction between online and offline behaviours – they are now considered one and the same. In line with this, some of our students participated in an adolescent internet use survey earlier in year, conducted by Flinders University and when I have the findings from the wider study, I will share. From other research, the average adolescent spends 1-3 hours per day online. That is not necessarily of concern but what is to be noted is that youths with a mental health issue spend significantly more time online. The 1-3 hour ‘average’ use for a regular healthy teen jumps to 4 hours plus for those suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental health related issues. Studies have revealed that the longer you stay online, the worse your mental health will be. This is now believed to include with addiction to screens, especially with gaming.
Again, at home and outside of school, as it is at school, the sustainable answer is not banning but about learning, support and guidelines aimed at striking a balance that works for your child, your family – a balance with screen time, gaming, social media – so that wellbeing is not eroded and perhaps even enhanced through information and connections. There are many resources that can assist with understanding cyber issues for your children, including general guidance on striking a balance. I am happy to recommend the parent section of the Federal Government’s eSafety site to you: https://esafety.gov.au/education-resources/iparent. I encourage you to talk with your children, as we do at school, about ICT use, what they are doing online, having a balance…being healthy.
Head of Middle School