Having surprisingly eluded the clutches of Covid for almost two years, I am this week sequestered at home, though thankful for the technology which has mostly enabled me to continue with meetings and lessons.
As with the remote working and learning to which many of us have been subjected over the last two years, I again find myself overdosing on screen-time and therefore reflect on the positive and negative effects of technology on our young people. Screens proved to be a lifeline to them during lockdowns, not only for their learning but also for the social interaction of which they had been deprived in school. Beyond lockdown, excessive and unhealthy use of social media (and, for some, online gaming) is causing us concerns. Some of the highly unsuitable and unfiltered content to which our children are exposed risks becoming ‘normalised’ and too many of our pastoral issues have the use of social media or cameras somewhere in the mix. We have therefore tightened our rule on unsupervised use, so that pupils below Sixth Form not only face confiscation but an immediate detention. We want them to enjoy each other’s company in person, to benefit from co-curricular opportunities and to occupy their time in enriching ways.
We can adopt this zero-tolerance approach in most areas of school, but not on the buses or at home, so it is vital that we all work together in promoting healthy and safe use and ensuring that time online is limited. I am grateful to one of my colleagues for this Guardian article on ‘notifications hell’, which focusses on how a constant stream of messages not only ruins our concentration but also places pressures on teenagers to respond immediately, thus becoming a virtual addiction. You may wish to discuss it at the dinner-table or in the car (when I hope you will have their attention!):
The online world is so fast-moving that it can also lead to impulsive and unthinking decisions. We know from too many shameful cases in the media that this aspect also encourages abuse and trolling with impunity, as well as the spread of misinformation of which the Russians have become masters, both before and during the horrific war in the Ukraine.
We have spent some time this week informing pupils and discussing the war, whilst also praying together for all those who are so unjustly suffering. We are also considering how we can respond as a community in more practical ways.