One of the toughest conversations that parents will go through once their tween hits middle school is whether or not to get a cell phone.
And it seems that these days nearly every kid has one.
As a parent of three kids, I am dreading this cell phone debate purely out of fear over all the scary crap my kids will see once they have untethered access to the internet and no parent hovering over the shoulder.
Enter middle school Vice Principal, Chris Cochran from Bentonville, Arkansas. He posted the most epic sounding off directed at parents after some truly disturbing encounters with his students in which he could see the depths of inappropriateness they are engaging with online.
He wants to get in the faces of parents everywhere and let them know something incredibly important: our kids do not deserve privacy and he some solid points for why.
“Warning: Public Education Rant to Parents,” Cochran starts his post.
He spells out exactly what’s going on in the school and the disconnect that parents are either clueless about their kids’ online activities or willfully looking the other way.
“Parents. I am an assistant principal in a middle school (grades 6-8). My number one job is to create and sustain a school environment where both students and teachers feel safe (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to teach, learn, innovate, and socialize,”
“I can’t begin to describe how much time I spend every day dealing with issues that stem from unsupervised cell phone usage by our students.
In situations where I have to search a students cell phone I often get sick to my stomach at what I find (highly inappropriate photos, videos, messages, social media usage, etc).
The things our students are willing to try and be a part of at such a young age gets worse and worse every year.”
Cochran writes that when he calls the parents to give them a heads up about what he is finding on students’ phones, he’s often times met with shock from parents, 90% of whom tell him that they rarely or never check their kids’ phones.
He’s got some words for parents about this.
“Parents. It is your number one job as a parent to get in your kids way at all times. Kids do not deserve privacy.
You own their devices, not them. You should be having the hard conversations with them about life, relationships, their bodies, their futures, etc. it is your responsibility to provide social and emotional support, help build coping skills, and monitor their activities.
And stop actively working against schools and start working with us. We are not the enemy. We are trying to fulfill the role of both parent and educator in many situations and that is a very delicate and difficult line to walk.”
A little louder for the back!
Cochran details three important ways that parents can “get in the way” and connect with their kids to keep them from engaging with the worst parts of being a teen online.
“Eat dinner as a family every night and actually talk,” Cochran stresses. “No devices allowed. Current research suggests that parents only spend about 8 minutes a day in conversation with their kids. That’s unacceptable.”
“Check their devices EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. You need to learn how to navigate their world,” he urges parents. “Inform yourself on how to use certain apps. Keep up with what apps are the most downloaded in the App Store. Make your kid show you their content and conversations and explain to you what is going on. Then give them advice. MAKE CONTENT WITH THEM and be part of their online presence.
“Create opportunities for them to have experiences. Take them to do new things,” he writes. “See new things. Learn new things. This not only strengthens their brain development, emotional development, and builds resiliency in kids but it also strengthens your relationship with them.”
And his last gold nugget advice for parents is to refuse to allow kids to take their phones and disappear into their rooms alone. He points out,
“Nothing good ever happens on the internet behind closed doors. It is by far the most dangerous place our students go every day.”
As a mother, I am absolutely thrilled to see a member of school leadership stepping up and directing comments at parents with a call to action to help our kids have healthier relationships with the internet.
His post has been shared 49K times and has attracted more than 4.8K comments from parents and teachers all over the country.
For more information on keeping your kids safe online, check out these tips from safewise.com