Middle school can be a challenging and trying time - that holds for parents just as much as students. Parenting adolescents is complicated by the many opportunities and challenges that 21st century technology allows. While students are often very savvy using technology, they often do not have the maturity to make the right decisions. As the holidays approach, when many students get new tech or tech upgrades, here are some general guidelines and reminders for parenting middle school children:
- Limit computer/internet/phone access. Middle school students struggle with time management, and most have difficulty turning off and truly distancing themselves from their electronic devices, especially phones. As a family, set up techonology limits ahead of time if possible to help students balance play/academics/sleep.
- Limit internet access use to public areas of the home. The chances of students crossing the line of what you consider acceptable is less when they know that someone can easily see what they are doing.
- Don’t think of the iPhone as a phone; it’s not. It’s a portable device that allows the user to easily connect to the internet and download apps. Know what is on your student’s smart “phone.”
- If your child has an account on a social network, you should insist on being their friend. While Instagram the most teen-frequented site, there are many social networking sites out there. Be aware of what your child puts on their Twitter or Vine accounts. Remember, most social network sites require students to be 13 years old to be a user.
- Be aware of what sites your child is visiting. Be familiar with their internet search history on their phone/iPad/computer. Review the importance of not sharing personal information such as name, address, and contact information online with your child.
- Know how much texting your child does daily. Many students have unlimited texting plans which allow them to text frequently throughout the day and night. It is important to realize that some middle schoolers text late at night, which obviously has a negative effect on their academic achievement and health. For this reason, we recommend that students do not have their cell phones and iPads in their rooms overnight. No one needs unlimited texting in Middle School!
- Finally, it is strongly recommended that your child does not create an account with the Snapchat app. Snapchat allows users to message each other with the belief that the message will quickly disappear. It is not something that a middle school aged student should have on their phone or iPad, as the only reason to use it is to hide what you are sending to others. Be aware of what apps would be appropriate in general by researching. A great source is Common Sense Media.
Middle school-aged children continue to need their families’ involvement in their technological lives. Educational technology can transform the lives and learning of middle school children, though it must be integrating thoughtfully both in the classroom and at home.