Parents, your middle school children need you now more than ever. They need your time, your patience, and your protection from a silent assassin, TECHNOLOGY. Sure, technological advances have taken education and ease of information to levels most of us could never have dreamed as young students. However, with all technology's benefits, there comes a price.
It has never been harder to be a middle school student. With unrealistic expectations of perfection, popularity and performance, levels of stress and anxiety have never been higher. At the same time, they are expected to be technologically responsible. Unfortunately, middle school students are not biologically programmed to handle this increased responsibility. In fact, they are some of the most impulsive and irrational beings on the planet.
Myelination, a process that begins in infancy and is completed in adulthood anywhere from 24 to 34 years of age, "enables nerve cells (neurons) to transmit information faster and allows for more complex brain processes. Myelination aids cognitive development and enables executive functions like planning, reasoning, and decision making while inhibiting impulses and promoting greater self-discipline."
Since the brains of middle school students still have a long way to go before fully myelinated, they have extreme difficulty making rational decisions. For once, it actually isn't their fault! But what do we do as parents, we give in to their pleas for an iPhone, iPad, laptop computer, etc. We warn them to be careful, to use it for educational purposes, in case of emergency, in moderation...all they can think about is social media, texting, gaming! It all adds up to hours and hours of unrestricted trouble, if not regulated. Which leads to the top 10 things middle parents should know and impliment:
1. Limit your children's recreational screen time (computer, video games, television, iPad, iPhone, etc.) to 2 or less hours per day. Screen time truly dedicated to schoolwork does not count towards recreational screen time.
2. Institute a household rule that your children's technological devices (iPhones, iPads, laptops, etc.) must get docked in your room at night to charge. Make a stipulation to your children that in order to be able to use a device, you must know all their passwords. If they know you have the ability to read their texts or posts to social media sites, they are more apt to censor what they write. Remember, nothing good or productive happens on social media after 9:00 PM so dock those screens, and don't give in to their screams!
3. Remind your children to think before they speak, write, or text. Impulsivity can have disasterous consequences. Everyone gets mad or frustrated from time to time, but responding verbally with unkind words or writing them down for the world to see online can haunt your children forever. Companies spend big money to archival sites to run personality and character searches for specific job candidates, paying close attention to social media. What your children write down in middle school in the heat of the moment might actually be the difference between landing that dream job or having them continue to live in your basement.
4. Just like movies, video games have ratings to protect your children. Many children are desperate to grow up too fast, often losing sight of the innocence of childhood. As parents, it is our job to protect their innocense, no matter how much they beg or whine. Click on this gaming video for more information about how video games affect your children's developing brain!
5. Take time from your busy schedule to give your children some one on one attention. In this day and age we often find ourselves buying them a wide range of items to show how much we care. It's the small things that have little to no cost like baking cookies, taking walks, runs, or hikes, practicing a sport, etc. that they truly enjoy. They might not act like they need time with you, but their hearts sure will appreciate it!
6. Make sure to make every effort to get to know your children's friends and their parents. We are who we associate with on a daily basis. Teach your children to blame you, as the parent, when they want to get out of a bad situation. For instance, "drink this", "smoke this", "steal this", "break this", etc....encourage them to respond "I can't, my parent(s) would destroy me or ground me forever!"
7. Pick a day of the week to check Infinite Campus (IC ) to make sure your children are performing at a high academic level. On Sundays, help your children to organize their binders and bookbags for the week ahead by placing stray papers in their proper folders and purging unnecessary items. Periodic checks of the agenda are also very helpful to ensure your children are writing down their assignments throughout the day.
8. Don't allow your children to tell you they've already completed their homework at school without proving it. This is York Suburban and we have no study halls. They will use this excuse as long as you let them. While checking Infinite Campus (IC), if you see lots of red "MISSING" codes behind class assignments, your children are not doing their job as a student. If your children are not keeping up with their assignments, help them get back on track by asking to see their agenda and the completed assignments. If they don't show it, then issue a consequence and stick with it until they do. It takes 21 days to create a habit.
9. Don't discount habits of good hygiene. Make sure to encourage use of deodorant, clean socks and underwear (just because they look clean from one day's use doesn't mean they are), and a variety of outfits. Wearing the same clothes on purpose everyday may create unwanted negative attention from peers.
10. Don't ever hesitate to contact your children's guidance counselor or teachers for any reason. You are never a bother or inconvenience!
Berger, Kathleen. The Developing Person Through the Lifespan. 2008. 7th Edition. New York: Worth.
Sowell, Elizabeth R., Peterson, Bradley S., Thompson, Paul M., Welcome, Suzanne E., Henkenius, Amy L., and Toga, Arthur W. "Mapping Cortical Change Across the Human Life Span." Nature Neuroscience. 2003: 6, 309-315.