The importance of being an involved parent can never be overstated. By being involved, it means actual face-to-face time with our children.
Students, for the most part, are tech savvy. They use technology regularly and have become very good at applying it at almost every opportunity. An on-going issue arising from this experience is the lack of time actually engaged in personal, face-to-face communications.
Have you ever had a conversation with your child and had them disengage, become totally involved in a text message, then look up at you and say, "What?" Or have you ever being engaged in an activity with your child and had to stop while they answer that urgent text message? Unfortunately, these types of behaviours are becoming the norm. The consequence of these behaviours have far reaching consequences.
- The person engaged in the face-to-face conversation becomes unimportant. This affects how relationships and friendships develop.
- The child believes the behaviour is acceptable and causes school conflicts between teachers and students.
- The child loses out on the things that are occurring right in front of them. Then, when they miss the opportunity, they can become aggressive and don't understand why. They have learned that responding to text messages is more important than the face-to-face conversation occurring in real time.
- This behaviour is carried over into the work place causing conflict between employers and employees.
We need to work with our students so they learn the importance of face-to-face communication. The text message from their 'friend' really doesn't need an answer immediately. Students need to understand that instant messaging doesn't mean instant reply. Some ideas that may help teach these principles may be simple practices like:
- No cell phones at the dinner table.
- Participate in specific activities with your children and purposely turn off all cells phones during the activity.
- Rule of thumb: 'substitute' the cell phone with a newspaper and determine if it would be appropriate to read. Example: While conversing with your child, would it be appropriate to suddenly begin reading a newspaper?
Engage your children in face-to-face conversations about events that interest or have some relevance to both of you. Ask them to ignore that 'instant message' when until after the conversation. It is critically important that you, as the parent, follow the same protocol and ignore any messages you receive during the conversation.
School Team Advisors for Youth (STAY)
Junior high schools in the Edmonton Catholic School District each have 'School Team Advisors for Youth' (STAY) which are comprised of retired police officers.
The STAY role involves:
- Educating, mentoring, and empowering students.
- Educating and mentoring parents on the realities their children face each day by raising parent awareness on these issues.
- Educating and mentoring staff on the realities that students face each day. Working in partnership with the administration of the school to develop action plans for safety and health of all students.
Stay Advisors in our junior high schools make a difference in the lives of our youth by encouraging them to "STAY" in school. The STAY teams work hard to ensure our youth succeed in life.