Part 1: Social Media Apps
As the technology changes, so must our efforts to protect our students and children. Social media apps can often turn a whole grade level at a school upside down, to say nothing of how it can devastate a family. We have recently learned the power of technology in my hometown, Phoenix, Arizona, in which a 14-year-old girl was prey via social media apps. Thankfully, the police intervened.
SEE GI Executive Director, Katey McPherson, on CBS 5 Live. Click Here.
Approximately 70-80% of the issues that I dealt with as a middle school assistant principal were connected to social media in some way. While there are many wonderful uses for apps, most especially to connect teens and their friends, when you download the app, the developers forget to tell you that the brains of boys and girls are growing at the very time the apps are taking control of that growth—this can be a bad thing.
Reward centers in the brain are a case in point. The adolescent brain is working on growing pathways between reward centers such as the nucleus accumbusand caudate nucleus with frontal-temporal lobes and the pre-frontal cortex. The reward/feel-good chemical, dopamine, floods the brain to help it in this growth. As all the neurons are firing and hormones are raging the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain makes good, sound decisions) is trying to guide this process but it is about 12-15 years away from full development.
Technology is not benign. It can invade this brain growth. Hence, the things we need to worry about:
The crucial thing to remember is that dopamine activity and pre-frontal development can be affected by the screen time and hyper-social media attention in a way similar to drug activity. While we might argue that most kids will “never go this far,” we also can’t be sure which child will be negatively affected if we don’t take control of the 10 to 15 year old’s app use.
To protect your children and keep their brains growing in healthy ways, try these strategies.
Over-reacting to technology can backfire, as adults look somewhat crazy to children. But underreacting to apps on our children’s phones can be similar to sending them into a dangerous forest alone. Trust your kids, but also teach them to trust that you will not be overbearing—you will, however, be their parent.
As you discover things on apps that you don’t like—things your children have done via the app that frighten you, be frank but also understanding. We put kids in a double bind when we hand them a cell phone at young ages and pay their $100 a month fee (basically giving them a fresh horse to ride alone into the dark forest with), but then slam them when they make a mistake on the app. They’re children. They’re inviting anyone and everyone into their lives through the app because they’re curious, exploring their sexuality (which is normal), and seeking friendships (aren’t we all?). Their brains are growing through all of this but they do need us to guide them, equip them, and empower them–in most cases, they don’t need us to attack or blame them for using an adult-created app or device in a “childlike” way.
Here are apps to look at very carefully. Please let us know your stories in the technology battlefield (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org). We are in the process of creating a neuro-science based digital citizenship curricula for teachers and parents of both boys and girls. We would like to hear your wisdom-of-practice research: your personal and community stories.