Are you nomo­pho­bic?

Schools, par­ents need to help kids set bound­aries when it comes to smart­phones

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - JEN­NIFER MAC­DON­ALD

The ma­jor­ity of youth possess an iphone, ipad, An­droid or some piece of smart tech­nol­ogy. With school go­ing back into ses­sion, par­ents and guardians need to help nav­i­gate the of­ten murky wa­ters around the use of those back pocket de­vices in an ed­u­ca­tional set­ting.

The Cape Bre­ton Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board pol­icy “Use of Mo­bile Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Tech­nol­ogy De­vices” was re­vised in April of 2016, and out­lines how schools in the board are ex­pected to gov­ern the de­vice us­age. Es­sen­tially, mo­bile de­vices are not al­lowed to be used in schools un­less they are be­ing used with per­mis­sion from and un­der su­per­vi­sion by staff/ad­min­is­tra­tion for an ed­u­ca­tional pur­pose. Provin­cially, pol­icy is be­ing de­vel­oped in an at­tempt to em­brace ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties that smart­phones pro­vide while en­sur­ing that they also are pro­vid­ing the ed­u­ca­tion and struc­ture nec­es­sary to avoid some of the harm that can come from the mis­use of de­vices.

Let’s as­sume, for now, that dur­ing struc­tured class time, school staff and pol­icy mak­ers are do­ing their best to help stu­dents em­brace the vast wealth of knowl­edge con­tained in the de­vices while ed­u­cat­ing them about how to avoid mis­in­for­ma­tion and the un­der­belly of the cy­ber world. If we can do that, we can be­gin to fo­cus on one im­por­tant piece of the giant puz­zle - how par­ents/ guardians can de­liver clear mes­sages around bound­aries and ex­pec­ta­tions for cell phone use out­side of those struc­tured times. That is, dur­ing free time at school - re­cess, lunch, be­fore and af­ter school and dur­ing class changes.

To be clear, youth need help with con­nec­tiv­ity bound­aries, es­pe­cially as it re­lates to so­cial me­dia. No­mo­pho­bia (fear of be­ing with­out a phone – no mo­bile pho­bia) is be­ing ad­dressed and stud­ied by ex­perts (the Univer­sity of Iowa has some in­ter­est­ing work if you want to google it!). Me­di­as­marts (a Cana­dian on­line not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that stud­ies dig­i­tal and me­dia lit­er­acy), notes in their 2013 study (soon to be up­dated) that one-third of youth sleep with their phones in case they get a mes­sage or a call. In­ter­est­ingly, 40% of girls and 31% of boys from the same study, worry that they’re spend­ing too much time on­line on their phones. We need to help our youth man­age some of those phone-in­duced fears of be­ing dis­con­nected and of miss­ing out.

Com­monly, stu­dents will say they “need” a phone so they’re reach­able in case of emer­gen­cies at home. The idea needs to be de­bunked. School staff have easy and im­me­di­ate ac­cess to every stu­dent. If in­for­ma­tion about an emer­gency needs to be re­layed, it is best if that mes­sage is de­liv­ered by a car­ing adult, face to face. No one wants a stu­dent to re­ceive a text mes­sage about an emer­gency while sit­ting in the mid­dle of a physics class, at a cafe­te­ria ta­ble or other­wise. Make it clear to youth in your home that while in school, they need not worry about miss­ing an im­por­tant mes­sage from you. It will be de­liv­ered – just not via their per­sonal elec­tronic de­vice.

Sim­i­larly, It is ben­e­fi­cial to dis­cuss the face to face in­ter­ac­tions youth have with their peers at school, and the value of that. Youth do spend a large amount of time build­ing friend­ships on­line, and telling them to turn off their de­vices doesn’t need to un­der­mine the im­por­tance they place on their on­line lives, but turn­ing them off some­times does help them de­velop the skills to fos­ter “old school” re­la­tion­ships in per­son. In­stead of al­low­ing the fear of miss­ing a mes­sage to rule their world, en­cour­age them to leave mes­sages for later, and fo­cus on what’s in front of them. This mes­sage is best de­liv­ered when adults send the same mes­sage with their own cell phone use (the old "prac­tice what you preach" adage).

As poli­cies are writ­ten and class­rooms ad­just to ever-chang­ing. ever-present tech­nolo­gies that kids bring to the schools, th­ese are baby steps in help­ing youth nav­i­gate the world of tech­nol­ogy, but just like the first day of school, well be­gun is more than half the bat­tle!

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