The government minister, Nick Gibb, made a speech last weekend suggesting that mobile phones should be banned from schools, and then the Head of Instagram has committed to removing self-harm images from its platforms, and additionally Public Health England issued parental guidance about mobile phones. (I haven’t read the details but it was very much children shouldn’t be allowed to take mobile phones to bed, have them at meal times, limits of 2 hours etc).
I don’t think there is a single week that goes by in school when we don’t have a conversation with parents about mobile phones/social media and the impact it has on lives. Personally, I enjoy watching the students switching their phones back on as they leave school, and I believe the majority of parents prefer to be “in contact” with their children as they walk home from school for safety reasons.
As a school, we try to maintain a social media presence to help inform and update our community, and we encourage the use of apps to give parents (and students for homework) updates about the school and their children. I believe that this is convenient for the modern world, and role models good use for children.
However, I can sympathise with Matt Hancock’s (The Health Secretary) view about the content of social media: too much is unsolicited and unfounded, and yet the social media organisations are not interested or too bureaucratic when it comes to dealing with those issues. I am not a lawyer, but I liked the idea that the social media companies should be deemed “publishers” and become more responsible for the accuracy of their content.
As a parent, I find myself regularly having to do a reality check with my children (mainly the eldest in Year 6) and helping them understand that the online world is not representative of total reality. I doubt very much that I “get it right” in terms of parenting (as we all know there isn’t a manual about how to be the perfect parent), but I try to help educate whilst having to have some clear lines. For example, in the week he is rarely allowed on the games console and never to play online games with friends.
So, as parents can we all do more to help our children and protect them from the world online? I believe we can. Tom Watson, the Deputy Labour Leader said that 10 years ago he believed that the online world might deliver some form of utopia, but believes that it has become dystopian. I am not as polarised in my own views, but I do see the damage it does in children (for the vast majority just around sleep patterns, if nothing else), and think that as a society we need to come up with better advice, laws, protection and positivity for young people (indeed all of us) online.
Let’s see what the government does next.
Have a good weekend.