Important reminder

Turn off notifications, check your daily screen time, stop doom scrolling and be aware of your digital footprint – it’s permanent; are all recent comments I have made to boys both individually and as a year cohort in regards to the use of social media.

The use of social media and its complexities are issues that are becoming increasingly concerning. Our boys have a lack of understanding of the impact surrounding the permanence of social media and the repercussions. As educators and parents, it is our responsibility to provide the knowledge and tools to cope with and understand the impact of negative social media use and behaviour.

Most teenagers do not have the skills required to self-regulate phone usage. The frequency of notifications from a range of sites are designed to ensure users are constantly checking, updating and scrolling. During a Year 7 information session on cyber safety, I showed the boys how to use settings and switch off notifications. In addition to increasing awareness of notifications, the boys were encouraged to access the settings on their phone and check their screen time. I challenged the boys to set a screen time target to work toward and to be mindful of allocating a specific time to be on their phones.

Each of the following practices are ways that we can work towards teaching boys to practice safe use of social media and to self-regulate their screen use and time:

  • Ensure the social networks your son is using are appropriate for their age
  • Discuss with your son not only the content he posts and shares, but also the groups that he ‘chats’ with via Messenger and WhatsApp. Use the ‘assembly rule’: ask "would you want a post or comment on a PowerPoint at a Marist assembly?" This is a means of getting the boys to think about the lack of privacy affiliated with anything that is posted or commented on.
  • You son may have access to social network sites from multiple devices other than their mobile phone. It is advisable to check your son’s laptop for Messenger and other related sites that are distracting, particularly during a school day.
  • Be mindful of who your son connects with – do they know the person offline? It would be worthwhile checking the Apps they use and who follows them on these. 
  • Ensure your son is aware of cyberbullying from the perspective of the perpetrator, the victim, and the bystander. Take the time to discuss the parameters surrounding this. For example, if you see bullying behaviour online and ‘like’ it or don’t call it out, you are promoting the actions of the perpetrator.

  • Discuss with your son the content they are putting online and the digital footprint they are creating. Are they aware that everything is permanent? This includes in the Messenger chat groups or Snapchat that can be screenshot and forwarded on.
  • Avoid doomscrolling - doomscrolling or doomsurfing, is a term referring to the practice of an excessive amount of screen time devoted to absorbing negative news. Social media has the capacity to bombard us with news updates in a 24/7 cycle that leads to a turbulence of emotional upheaval. Doomscrolling is becoming more prevalent with teenagers when using phones as media outlets thrive on what is termed as clickbait, a means of obtaining more clicks. Doomscrolling has the potential to lead to anxiety as users become overwhelmed with the vast quantities of negative news they are consuming.
  • During periods of lockdown, we all came to rely on digital platforms as a means of communication, to complete work and a range of tasks. We need to guide our boys in getting back into society and encourage them to self-regulate their phone usage. Shorter intervals are advisable, with allocated time slots for the use of phones, and also the physical process of putting them away so they do not cause distractions.

The College will be running information sessions for each year group on being a ‘Healthy and respectful Digital Citizen’. For further information around the content of these sessions, the eSafety website provides a range of support materials, information about community education, and a reporting portal.

As parents and educators, we are challenged in today’s society to navigate the realm of social media. It is therefore imperative that we are informed and have both knowledge and an understanding to support our boys in maintaining a healthy and respectful digital presence.

At Marist, we have strict guidelines in place regarding the use of social media, not just at school but also activity at home that impacts the school environment. If boys engage in disrespectful behaviour online that brings the College or another student into disrepute, there will be consequences that reflect the seriousness of the actions. Consequences for misuse of social media at Marist range from in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, and depending on the severity of the issue, enrolment withdrawal.

At Marist, as educators and parents, it is important we promote proactive use of social media to ensure our boys are equipped to use their devices in an informed and considered manner.

Sarah Mahar
Head of Student Wellbeing – Senior School (Acting)