One area of focus this year (and every year) at Germantown Academy is cultivating a community of happy, healthy, whole children. Under the direction of Director of Health and Wellness Dr. Leigh Serra and Assistant Head of School Nidhi McVicar, our health and wellness efforts continue to grow, and we are fortunate to have the partnership of families and colleagues across the school in this endeavor.
We were pleased to welcome former tech insider and social media strategist Max Stossel to speak to students and families about the ways that social media impacts our minds, bodies, and hearts. Stossel shared compelling stories, research, and useful suggestions to help all of us, especially our students, engage in healthier ways. Some of our personal takeaways from Stossel’s talk about developing more intentional relationships with social media and technology include:
• Ask “How can I help you navigate this?”
• Ask your child which apps make them feel good during and after usage.
• Good questions to ask: “Am I here with intention or am I mindlessly here?” or “Am I using tech or is it using me?”
• Brainstorm ways to cope with hard feelings and situations that do not include “escaping” into a device. Choose specific face-to-face or outdoor activities that kids can use to replace social media and encourage free play.
• Lead by example and narrate what you are using your devices for and when you are using them so that your children see more intentional usage and modeling.
A century ago, the idea of having face-to-face conversations across oceans and a variety of tools and music at our fingertips would have seemed mind-blowing. Today, our time and attention are the currency that companies fight for. Companies use a variable rewards system to create more addictive social media, similar to slot machines, to keep users constantly checking for notifications and rewards and contributing to a continuous cycle of scrolling.
A good reminder is that technology use is a trade-off. Analyze what is gained vs. lost by using or eliminating social media apps and help kids talk openly about their potential fears about friendships and missing out. Healthy, open, ongoing dialogue is always the best approach.