Most private schools have an Acceptable Use Policy in place governing the use of technology. That means that students in private schools must follow their school's guidelines and directives when it comes to using personal technology. Personal technology includes devices such as laptops, desktop computers, tablets, smartphones. What is somewhat perplexing to many mature teachers is that none of these devices were in common use ten years ago. The reality is that young people have all some or all of these devices and use them naturally, freely and without much thought. Using technology is second nature to students these days.
As a rule, there are limits on these devices and their use in private schools. Let's look at five things you are not supposed to do with personal technology. Breaking the rules in your school could land you in a heap of trouble, including expulsion. If you are a parent, review her school's personal technology use policy. Then discuss the policy with your child. Help her understand the rules, the limits and the reasons why the school has a technology policy. Remind her further that she has no rights in a private school. So if the school disciplines her for an infraction, there is very little or no recourse. That is because private school students are covered by contract law. The rights and privileges are spelled out in detail in the contract which you signed with the school. She does not have constitutional rights per se. The contract is a legal, binding document.
Here then are five things you must not do with personal technology while under school jurisdiction.
Harassing is broadly defined as bothering somebody. It takes many forms and runs the gamut from racial to sexual harassment. Most schools strictly prohibit harassment in all its forms. The problem for many students is that they don't consider texting somebody who doesn't want to be texted as harassment. But it is. Similarly, posting harassing notes or photos on social networking sites such as Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter Facebook can be considered harassment. You and I both know that children do these sorts of things without thinking. They think it is acceptable behavior. But it is not. One of our ongoing jobs as parents to continually discuss and explain why rules exist and how to live with them. Put another way, what your child thinks is teasing can be interpreted by somebody else as harassment. The lines between teasing and harassment can blur all too easily. Our job as parents is to teach our children to exercise good judgment.
Bullying has always been difficult for adults to catch. It is a form of harassment which hides in the shadows. Years ago, it was something which occurred during recess or after school. Children would taunt another child or beat up somebody or threaten them with physical abuse. Unfortunately, electronic bullying or cyber-bullying, as it is known, is an even harder-to-detect form of intimidation. Bullying in all its manifestations is intimidation. Children need to know that it is unacceptable. Anywhere. Anytime. Have that discussion with your children. Don't accept the excuse that "everybody does that."
Hazing for many years was considered a rite of passage. Supposedly it was a tradition. Frankly, if it was a tradition, then it was a lousy tradition. Most administrators and teachers have come to their senses and banned hazing in all its forms. Read The Hazing Reader by Dr. Hank Nuwer for a detailed examination of the topic. Explain to your children that hazing is illegal besides being unacceptable. Tell them that they must report any hazing which they witness. They must not be silent accomplices in illegal acts.
How easy is it to take a picture of a test or homework answer or anything? Dead easy. Children do it without thinking. They take pictures of everything. Smartphones make it possible. They need to know that they cannot do this. They will get caught. They could face major disciplinary action. The problem is that we adults often set poor examples. They see us sneak them into the cinema as children, even though they are over the age limit and should pay full price. They see us speed. They see us cheat on our taxes. Our example is far more powerful than words. We parents need to show them a good example.
5. Off limits
Going to sites which are off limits according to a school's Acceptable Use Policy could mean that your child will not be able to access the school's network via her personal devices. Examples of websites which are unacceptable will vary from school to school. Consult your school's AUP and take time to have a detailed discussion with your child about what she can surf and what she cannot. The other principle which is so important to teach young people is how to interact with other people online. Teach them to trust but to verify, as one of our Presidents put it so succinctly. People and organizations on the Internet are not always who they appear to be. Teach your child never to give out an email address, a phone number, a WhatsApp or Instagram account to somebody they do not know, i.e., have not met in person. Teach your child not to click on links which may contain malware.
Technology also offers a splendid opportunity for teenagers to waste time. While teenagers have wasted time since the beginning of time, I suspect that nothing much will change. Unfortunately, in these tough times, wasting time needs to be kept to a minimum. If America is ever to regain its competitive edge in the global community, our young people need to be held to the highest standards of personal and academic behavior possible. Gaming for hours on end or watching videos is not a good use of a young person's time in my opinion. Reading is always a better option.
We all need relaxation. Show your young person how to meld all his various activities together in order to excel and achieve the promise with which he was born. Show him how to use technology to be more productive. Show him how to use technology to accomplish more. We parents must do that by example.
Examples of Personal Technology Policies
Questions? Contact me on Twitter. @privateschl