Today’s blog is a collaborative post between myself and my colleague Laura Day. Laura is the Lead School Counselor in the Student Support Department at my school, Stamford American International School. She is an incredibly positive, thoughtful and student-centered leader within our school community that I have had the pleasure of teaming up with now on several occasions to lead student, staff and parent workshops around digital learning. This article outlines some work we have done recently with parents on digital resiliency.
In schools, we often take for granted that our “kids know more than we do” when it comes to digital learning. While this statement is true a lot of the time, it is very generalized and sometimes incorrect. What we are noticing in our school is that as we start to personalize learning experiences more and more for individual students in our school it is just as important to personalize learning for our parent community. As our parents begin to realize the difference between learning now compared to when they were young, we are starting to answer parent questions with targetted and student-driven learning experiences. We are focussing on educating our students to be resilient in the digital age, so we are also supporting our parents in this transition.
The idea of digital resilience is understanding when you are at risk online, knowing how to respond if something goes wrong, learning from your online experiences, and being able to bounce back if things go wrong. Digitally resilient kids will have the skills and confidence to conduct themselves safely in an online world.
The concept of digital resiliency can be frightening for teachers and parents who don’t want to expose their children to the dangers that lurk online. That is why at our school, we have purposefully developed a K-12 Digital Citizenship curriculum that is integrated into learning all year that supports student development as learners in the digital world (article to come soon).
As adults, this concept of lives being lived online can be hard to fully comprehend. As the first generation who are parenting and teaching digital natives, we definitely have as much to learn from them as they do from us! But we do have the ability to prepare them for the inevitable ups and downs.
Like anything else, kids need to be able to explore and practice these skills in order to learn. It is often our first instinct to protect our kids from the dangers of the online world with as many filters, locks, and tools as we can. While these have their place, if our aim is digitally resilient kids then its imperative that we give them opportunities to explore the cyber world. At Stamford, we purposefully keep our networks open and combine this with a strong teaching and learning program that supports everyone in being online learners. We combine this with a community education program that empowers all learners (students, parents, and teachers) to be at the forefront of change to support 24/7 learning in a safe and supportive manner.
It’s also important to note that kids are smart, and we’re dealing with digital natives here. The more controls we put up the harder they are going to work to get around them, and this puts them at risk of exploring even worse areas of the web without our support. This ‘sneakier’ access will not help them to build digital resilience.
“Increase children’s resilience to the material to which they may be exposed so that they have the confidence and skills to navigate these new media waters more safely”
Young Minds. Resilience for the Digital World (https://youngminds.org.uk/)
As a School Counselor, a tremendous portion of my day revolves around students interactions with each other on social media. The peer conflicts and teasing that used to happen face-to-face now more often than not, takes place online. I have numerous conversations with parents wanting to know how to manage their child’s digital life, how to monitor their online presence, or how to keep them safe in a world that they don’t entirely understand.
Our students have shared that they DO want support and guidance and that limits and guidelines are important and help them to navigate their complicated social world online. They also all want some level of trust and privacy to talk to and interact with their friends without feeling that their privacy is being invaded. This can be a tricky balance for families to achieve and will look very different for 11-year-olds than it does for 15-year-olds. Remember those 20fit phone cords and the 3-hour conversations with best friends? This is what our kids are doing on SnapChat and other messenger apps.
This focus on managing risk is key, particularly with our youngest media users BUT we need to support and prepare our kids for what they are going to experience and encounter online. Schools play a role in educating students in online safety and digital citizenship, and dedicated online spaces for children and youth where they can play and explore safely are key. The components that parents and educators need to focus our energy on are more process focused. Providing kids the opportunity try new things in developmentally appropriate and safe ways, allowing them to make mistakes in an arena where they are safe while having adults there to guide and help them along the way.
For more about the parent workshops we offer, have a read of this article about our Social Media and your teen workshop.
Here are some screenshots from our parent session:
Image Source and PDF of Study: Young Minds. Resilience for the Digital World https://youngminds.org.uk/
Image Source: Young Minds. Resilience for the Digital World https://youngminds.org.uk/