Each week I work with parents and boys regarding the impact of smartphones from the nature of sleep and social interactions to mental health implications. Research reveals that the current ‘Smartphone Generation’ go to fewer parties and spend less time together in person. Despite this, I know that when they do congregate, they document their hangouts relentlessly on social media platforms from Snapchat to Instagram (they don’t use Facebook anymore).
I know this because of our culture of ‘upstanding’, where images and videos are consistently forwarded to me by parents and boys who are concerned with the online choices of their sons and friends. I know too that those not invited to go along for the ride are effectively excluded and are keenly aware of it. So what? Firstly, the feedback we get from staff, students and parents is that, whilst smartphones are a wonderful convenience, people are all too accessible. Given this, it is increasingly difficult to have ‘down time’ without life intruding back in on us.
Indeed, research reveals the harmful effect their misuse is having on teenagers including, depression, addiction and suicide. Most boys at Ambrose Treacy College believe that whilst instant communication makes their lives more efficient it has also brought more demands and robbed them of the precious few chances they still have to get away from the pressures of life. Secondly, despite our ongoing efforts, the public and private etiquette surrounding these technologies still lags significantly behind and common sense and manners have not kept pace.
The parents and students I work with agree that too many young people (and adults) lack the necessary maturity and moral compass that leads to the misuse of smartphones and they can become a destructive force in both the virtual and real world.
At Ambrose Treacy College we develop not only the boys’ IQ (Academic Intelligence) and EQ (Emotional Intelligence) but also their DQ – their Digital Intelligence. We achieve this through our Formation Curriculum where we form the boys in issues such as digital citizenship, sexting, cyberbullying, gaming addiction, mental health, pornography, sleep, child protection and how to seek support regarding these issues. We also aim to support our staff, students and parents develop a digital spine where they are able to set boundaries as well as monitor and supervise how they are engaging with these technologies in order to not become smart clones of smartphones. It makes you think what the next 80 years will have in store for our boys from their education to their engagement with popular culture. Put down your phone and have a think about that right now.
Dean of Fomation