Reflections on March-9 Tech Forums

If you didn’t make it to our tech forums on March 9, you can still catch up on what you missed! Start by visiting the MCDS-Tech Parent Page--click through the links near the top of the page under “UPPER SCHOOL PARENT FORUM RESOURCES.” Or, for more of a firsthand look at what we covered and how we covered it, check out the video recording of our on-campus session. Click here. Here’s a synthesis of what we learned from the parents who attended:


  • You want help filtering and monitoring tech use at home. Of all the topics we covered, this one carried the greatest sense of urgency and call to action. We covered Circle with Disney, Curbi, and Open DNS as options for at-home filtering and monitoring. KoalaSafe came up as another viable option for some families. Before you set up these tools at home, we recommend you take stock of your family’s internet use and general philosophy around technology. If you need help choosing a tool and/or setting it up, please let Bobby and Christopher know. Questions we received on this topic included: - How can we give access to online research and protect from results of random searches? - Are there sites I should block? Can I? - Are you familiar with “Teensafe” and what do you think of media tracking apps? - How do I best control/limit tech access which is more restrictive than my child’s peers and not create World War III? - Even if I can monitor my kids’ screen choices, what about all his friends? - My kids are YouTube watchers. How much oversight do you suggest? Should I disable it and can that be done? - Why eliminate FaceTime from iPads? It makes it difficult to work together on projects. They end up having to use multiple devices.
  • You’re not sure how to help your child find balance and safety in their use of tech, and there is a wide range of philosophies around what makes a healthy balance. One’s personal relationship with technology is always in flux, even ours as adults. Just as we continuously work to calibrate our own connectedness and productivity, while also preserving quality time off screens, so should your children be awareness and reflection around this. As parents and educators, we’re partners in guiding them through this until eventually they gain independence. In our approach to this, we often refer back to the car-driving analogy: you’d want to be in the front seat with your child as s/he learns to drive, providing real-time feedback and guidance, monitoring for safety, and supporting the development of responsible habits before they go out there completely on their own. The same is true as your child learns to “drive” her/his tech devices. - How do we best focus tech time when it is needed for schoolwork, but can be a distraction? - I've observed what I'd characterize as addictive behavior with internet and games: strong desire; bad choices; inability to disconnect; changed personality/mindset after use. - How do you balance minimizing screen time with a child's interest in programming / coding? - Does screen time for educational or creative purposes, such as making stop-motion videos, count as screen time? Should it be limited? - Our family is very pro-tech. If our kids do well in school, play sports, and have good social relations, why do we need to limit screen time? - I feel like too many interactions with my kids are telling them to "turn off" their devices. It's taking over our relationship. Help! - I am so tired of seeing teenagers buried in their devices. How to manage this? - How should I limit the amount of phone / screen time? By decree? Using tech/apps? - How do you monitor homework / screen time on the Chromebook? - My 5th grade son loves to do his homework while connected to technology--eg, wearing headphones listening to music or taking occasional breaks to search He seems like this actually calms him, almost like a "learning tool." Is this ok? Thoughts? - I want to give my kids opportunities to explore. I try to use natural consequences in other areas of parenting. How do we do these with respect to tech? Do we need to change our parenting style for tech? - My 5th grader isn't allowed to use devices during the week, but binges on the weekend. What can I do to help better manage the weekends? (We fight a lot about this during precious family time.)
  • You have concerns about your child’s sense of media literacy and/or use of social media. With such wide, ready access to information and media, students need help navigating the jungle of online media. This is further compounded by the fact that our students are producers of media as well as consumers, and participation in social media is often critical to their social lives. Key habits of mind that we actively teach toward media literacy include critical thinking, mindful awareness of bias and hidden message, and careful consideration of sources. Heris what some of our Upper School students had to say after learning about media literacy this past January. And here is an article from the Times this past November to help you get acquainted with the dangers of “vault apps.” As with other ventures in guiding students around technology, conversations on media literacy must be ongoing and continuous. Our work is never truly done! - In 5th grade my child was so engaged with discussions regarding stereotypes and how they are perpetuated. Now in 6th grade text conversations and photos used are often perpetuating the exact stereotypes disputed last year--a 180 turn, but the train has left the station. How to continue conversations that took place in 5th grade? Teachers have a different and more powerful impact than a parent in this realm in my opinion. - I’m worried about the sexualization of girls through social media, as well as “selfie/self-absorbed” culture. How to address this with children, both boys and girls? - What are the drivers around what boy vs. girl teenagers post to social media? - Feels like a cultural shift--few boundaries with privacy and personal lives--how to handle this? - How do you explain to your child your reservations about apps and social media that have a “like” or popular component? - How are children using VSCO? All seem to have a link in their Instagram bio. Is it just another “story?” - How private is Yik Yak? It seems to be the main vehicle for sexting. -The way kids are receiving info now is very different than the way we receive info--newspaper, radio, TV. How can we help our children with this plethora of info, and how to help decipher content and go deeper than headlines? - What are some appropriate things a child can say/do when on an uncomfortable group text? - Am I hampering my child socially if I do not let him have the devices most of his friends have?

As you synthesize your parenting approach around all these complex issues, you may also want to check out this letter to MCDS parents from Dana Blum, Bay Area Director at Common Sense Media, who attended our forums March 9th.

Our MCDS Tech Department has gained enormous insights from the parent community through those March-9th forums and the communications that followed. We hope to continue such dialogue in order to best serve your current needs. We welcome the exchange of questions, ideas, and resources as a learning community.

Please contact Tech Director Bobby Bardenhagen and/or Ed/Tech Coordinator Christopher Warner with questions or input.