New school year, new rules: Simple strategies for limiting your daughter’s internet usage during the school term
The beginning of a new school year is a moment of great expectation: pencils are sharpened, exercise books are crisp, and hope abounds for new friendships, successes and growth. It’s also a time when a window opens for change at home and at school: new wakeup times, new rotas, new timetables.
This is a perfect moment for parents to think about how they want their kids to engage with social media – and introduce any new rules for the school year. A recent study found that over half of teens text more over the summer holidays, making the need for a serious conversation about use and limits even more vital.
Most teenage girls need their parents to limit their social media use. They are not able to do it on their own. Many girls are addicted to social media because, simply put, they are addicted to their relationships. And social media intensifies the insecurity many girls already feel about their relationships.
In 2010, only three out of ten young people had rules limiting technology use. But here’s the good news: kids with rules used social media three hours less than peers with no rules. As hard as this battle can be, it’s worth it. In Odd Girl Out, Rachel Simmons lists strategies for parents to limit social media use. Here are a few:
1. Create a mobile phone parking area. Establish a place in your home where mobile phones are deposited and charged (and, if possible, silenced) during preset times. It might be during homework time, dinner, or when friends come over. With fewer external stimuli, family members can focus on each other and on important tasks.
2. Prohibit sleeping with phones. Many girls rest their phones under their the pillows or on their chests so they can wake up if someone texts. If drama is afoot, late night texts quickly become irrational and explosive. Girls lose sleep, too. Park the phone at night somewhere else, and if you’re not sure she’ll leave it there, put it under your own pillow and turn it off. Yes, I’m serious.
3. Limit social media during homework. With the constant disruption of a vibrating phone or blinking chat window, kids do not develop habits to sustain longer periods of work, focus and thought. Scientists call this study time ‘rich learning,’ the kind of knowledge required for higher order thinking tasks like math and reading. With social media used during homework, kids end up multitasking, or switching rapidly between different tasks. Multitasking does not allow for rich learning and results in epic amounts of distraction.
If moderating Internet access is not an option, focus on the mobile phone. Implement a 15 minute texting break following 45 minutes of work without a phone. Internet safety expert Lori Getz suggests asking kids to try homework one night while using social media, then the next night without it. After the two nights, talk with your daughter about the difference in learning, efficiency and effectiveness she experienced.
As you undertake these changes, keep a few things in mind:
1. Change takes time. Remember, you are developing new habits in your family. This means repeating something over and over again, understanding that some days will be harder than others. Sticking to it, no matter what, is key. If you’ve ever accomplished an athletic feat, remember how long it took to train, and how you gradually progressed. Same is true here.
2. Don’t give in at first. Just like a teacher who has to establish her authority with the class before she makes exceptions and softens up, you must also be the heavy until your rules are respected.
3. Explain why. Let your kids know why these rules are important to you, and to them. It doesn’t mean negotiating. It means showing your kids you respect them as individuals who deserve to understand why they must comply with certain expectations.
Odd Girl Out: How to help your daughter navigate the world of friendships, bullying and cliques – in the classroom and online by educator and bullying expert Rachel Simmons is available to buy now to buy now from all good bookshops. You can also download this title as an ebook from all the major ebook retailers, so you can read it on your Kindle, iPad, Kobo or Sony Reader. To find out more, visit www.rachelsimmons.com.
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