If you don’t advocate for your child, who will?

This week a friend told me a story about a little fourth grade boy who is being bullied at school. His mother is at her wit’s end. The fourth grade boy is in a combined classroom (4th, 5th and 6th grade). A sixth grader is picking on the little boy – let’s call him Raul. Raul is little for his age. He was born earlier and comes from a long line of skinny children. He’s underweight for his age. The sixth grader is dumping out his lunch when he’s not looking. When Raul tries to retaliate by hitting and calling names he gets suspended.

But this is not where it ends. Unfortunately, technology also plays a role in all of this. The sixth grader bully has a smart phone that he takes to school with him and which he uses on the playground. He also has a Facebook page and he looks at the internet while he’s outside “playing.” The school called the sixth grader’s parents and they said they were okay with this.

I don’t know the details but apparently some of the sites he visits and images he shows around to the other kids and not G rated and some contain violent images.

Who is there to protect our children against other children’s (and their parents’) misuse of the internet and of technology? When did it become okay for children to be using the internet or smart phones during recess? Recess? Really? When I think of recess I think of kickball and dodgeball, not sixth graders passing around their smart phones to young, young children. Recess is a time for our children to socialize and get physical activity, not to surf the web.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a Montessori school interviewing the director of the school to see if it would be a place where I would want my children to be eduated. One of the criteria in my selection involves a LACK of technology in the classroom. That’s right, you heard me. No computers. No iphones. No internet. I want my child to be a child for as long as possible and for her to use her intellect and creativity, not a computer.

Another mother was at the meeting with a similar goal of finding an appropriate school for her child. However, during the question and answer, she asked the director if her 3rd grader can bring her iPad to school. I’m pretty sure my face showed it all as much as I tried to avoid looking shocked. Fortunately, the director politely explained the policy on such devices and said that the third grader would not be able to bring her iPad to school. Outside the mother (who seemed like a perfectly nice woman) confided in me that the school her son is currently attending, and the Montessori we were attending, “needed to join the 21st century.” I didn’t have time to explain at length why I disagreed but I did tell her my views were very different.

So back to little Raul. If I were his mother I would in that school faster than you could blink an eye, demanding a meeting. Demanding to know what the school was going to do to protect MY child from the misuse of technology on school grounds. It is the school’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all children attending the school. Schools can and do make policies to protect themselves and their students. Just because a parent thinks that it is okay for her son to be playing on the internet and sharing it with his peers does not make it okay for him to be exposing these things to other children on the playground or anywhere else on school grounds. Nor does any of this have its place in a public school environment. Public libraries have restrictions on internet sites that adults and children can view mostly for the protection of children.

Cell phones, ipads, iphones have no place on school grounds. At best they are detracting and distracting from the learning that is supposed to be taking place; at worst they are exposing other children to material that their parents may not want them to see.

Parents must be proactive and must protect their children. Insist on a no cell phone policy at your child’s school. Phones can be left in the locker or taken away and returned at the end of the day. Contact the PTA. Ask for a meeting with the principal. Do what you need to do to protect your child and to ensure the best learning environment possible. Leave parental decisions about cell phones and the internet to the home environment where they belong. Not on the school playground, where they go unsupervised.

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9 comments

  1. Hi.

    I came across your mention of this article on BC.

    I am also a single mom to 2 year fraternal twin boys and agree that iPads, iPhones, etc should not be allowed during recess.

    I think iPads are ok during teacher supervision if it is for educational purposes.

  2. Saw your blog via Baby Center too. I’m with you on no technology. I’m one of those weird parents who actually don’t let her kid watch TV or play with computers and my iPhone. This may be a bit of a surprise to those who know me because I basically make a living using said gadgets. But I don’t think that kids need to be exposed to that, and i feel like it even hinders them. They need to be more unplugged. Yes the 21st century is very tech-based, but childhood is not. They have plenty of time to learn that and the learning curve is not that difficult compared to something like social skills that take a lifetime. I read an article on LA times maybe that said the top CEOs of tech companies (google for instance) send their kids to waldorf or montessori schools and love that their kids don’t use technology.

    1. I totally agree with you. I was just thinking tonight that just because adults have something doesn’t mean that it is right for children. Obviously I use my computer and my smart phone and all kinds of other things but that doesn’t mean they are right for children.

    2. P.S. I had also heard that about CEOs. Sounds like they know what they are doing. I’m going to use this in my next blog post! Keep your eyes out for that! Christina

  3. I finally am finished with all the enrollment process for a AMAZING pre k for Jax, and they believe in NO technology for the first 2 yrs of Pre K, Kind, and as far as first grade. That was a AMAZING thing to hear from the school. SOOOOO glad I decided to have him “try out” as there is testing after testing and a board meeting to decide if they will accept him.

    1. Hi Kari – It’s refreshing to hear that schools are responding to this need. I have been shocked that preschools in my area are integrating 15 minutes of computer time into the daily activities due to Kindergarten readiness. It sounds like you have a great school for your child.

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