Joe Patek, assistant principal, led a parent forum about technology and cell phone use on January 26 in the SHS Library and Media Center.
The presentation included conversations about apps like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Kik, Yik Yak and Ask.fm. It also included a panel of high school students who talked to the parents from a student perspective about the different apps and their experiences with social media.
This was Patek’s first parent forum at SHS, but he did a similar forum while working at Cedarburg High School. In his experiences at Cedarburg, he discussed how the school was using Twitter as a way for teachers to communicate with their students by integrating social media into the classroom.
Despite this practical use, Patek sees the conflicts social media has brought to the school.
“We can probably all agree that at the root of any issue, somewhere, technology or social media is probably involved … Social media is a huge part of my job and understanding the role it can play in high school kids’ lives,” Patek said.
Barb Stutz, parent, sees social media as an issue in schools, and therefore decided to come to the forum.
“I wanted to see how the teenagers and Mr. Patek addressed the issue, which I think is an odd issue because there is such a generation gap,” Stutz said.
“Hopefully by the time kids get to high school, they … start to understand the power of these things. Maybe not fully, but they understand when I post [something] on Twitter, people are going to see it,” Patek said.
Sarah Goldberg, junior, participated in the forum on the assisting panel of students, explaining the apps uses and answering parent questions.
“I definitely think [social media] is important for students and parents alike to be aware of. The forum was not to alarm parents about what was going on, but to show that apps can be very bad … A lot of them are used for good and they should not be looked at in only a negative way,” Goldberg said.
Currently, the SHS policy states that teachers can choose how technology is used in the classroom, and students are free to use technology in hallways and common areas.
“Cell phones are an issue at the high school, but I don’t think they’re an issue in the sense that banning them is the answer … What we want to continue striving for is teaching kids the appropriate way to be responsible with [technology],” Patek said.
The goal is for students to understand the appropriate time to use cell phones and social media, and the time to pay attention to what is going on outside of their devices.
“As I think as far as social media goes, all kids are very prevalent on social media. My friends and I are very prevalent on social media as well … it’s just how you are using it is the key,” Patek said.
Patek wants to prepare students by showing them how to use technology responsibly as they transition into the world beyond high school.
“Someday they are all going to have jobs where they have to monitor their phone use, and our goal is not to have you be perfect 18-year-olds, but to be successful 35-year-olds,” Patek said.
When it comes to parent involvement, Patek believes parents should be aware of the benefits and downsides of the apps their kids are using, instead of spying on their child’s use of technology.
“Every group of parents at every school is finding it difficult to adjust,” Patek said.
Goldberg agrees that parents need to look further into their perceptions of technology.
“[Parents] look at our phones and they think it is a waste of time, money and energy that we put into social media, but I think there are a lot of benefits that we can get, such as working in school groups. All of my clubs are meeting on social media and through social media, I am staying in touch with friends and people out of the county,” Goldberg said.
Overall, the forum was an opportunity to foster understanding.
“I think [the forum] went well. A lot of the parents that were there needed to hear what a lot of us had to say, and they were very responsive to the group,” Goldberg said.
“I thought the forum was very worthwhile and I thought Mr. Patek was a good bridge between the 40-50-year-old parents and the teenagers,” Stutz said.
“It would help them learn from kids they look up to, as parents are not very effective in trying to teach their kids that,” Stutz said.
Another parent forum is scheduled for spring.
by Monica and Martha Dix