Campaign aims to help parents deal with children and social media.
The headmaster of one of the UK’s leading co-educational independent schools has launched a joint initiative with parents in a bid to stop ‘tweenage’ pupils accessing inappropriate social media content.
David EJJ Lloyd, head at Solihull School, in the West Midlands, began the academic year by speaking out about the “very real” angst pupils suffer from the relatively new phenomenon of Fomo – Fear of Missing Out, the digital equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses, along with restricting the use of mobile phones during the school day.
Now, Mr Lloyd has teamed up with parents to provide a united front against what he calls a “very modern syndrome driven by technology and instant communication”.
Since launching #ParentsDecide, a campaign to empower parents to say ‘no’ to their under-13 child accessing social media, Mr Lloyd (pictured) said: “I am delighted the response from our parents’ body has been so hugely encouraging. We have also seen a significant drop in social media-related problems with our under-13 pupils but there is still much work to be done.
“We have, for example, been made aware of some of our younger pupils regularly playing online games with violent and sexualised content deemed inappropriate for children of less than 15 and 18 years of age.
“We are, therefore, reaching out to help parents feel emboldened in dealing with issues which many felt were slipping beyond their control. By taking the stance we did, we did little more than give a voice to parents’ concerns, encouraging them to trust their instincts and feel less anxious about policing their children’s Fomo.
“My colleagues and I are regularly made aware of the constant tensions parents experience between not wanting to be the only ones who say ‘the answer is no’ and acquiescing to their under 13-year-old child using social media platforms designed for older users.
“Our initiative is simply to provide a conduit for parents to feel they can say ‘no’ secure in the knowledge many others in our school community are also saying no for the right reasons – and not saying yes for the wrong reasons.
“By voluntarily signing up to #ParentsDecide, parents’ voices will become part of a collective – they will feel less alone when harangued by their pre-teen and more comfortable saying no.”
The Solihull campaign was launched well before the Culture Secretary Matt Hancock this week urged headteachers across the country to ban the use of mobile phones.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hancock warned that mobiles could have a “real impact” on students’ achievements and leave them exposed to increased amounts of bullying. He also questioned why youngsters needed to bring their phones to school in the first place.
At the start of the 2017-18 academic year, Mr Lloyd and Solihull School told pupils that, while they were allowed to take phones into school, they were not allowed to use them during the school day – apart from A Level students within the Sixth Form Centre.
Mr Lloyd said: “Importantly, pupils have embraced the mobile phone changes at school, in many cases with relief. We can already see more face-to-face interaction as they get used to spending less time on their phones during the school day. They also feel less peer pressure to have the latest phone.”
The lack of mobile phone usage at Solihull supports the social media issues which the school is addressing. And it is not alone, earlier this year Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed his concerns about the impact of social media on the nation’s youngsters and warned social media firms they could be hit by new laws if they didn’t do more to protect children online.
In a letter to companies, including social media giants Facebook and Google, Mr Hunt accused them of “turning a blind eye” to their impact on children.
Search for ‘Solihull School’ on Facebook or Twitter to read more about the #ParentsDecide campaign. For more information about Solihull School, call 0121 705 0958 or visit www.solsch.org.uk.