Parents and grandparents… think back. Think back to your childhood. What are your memories about how you spent your time when not at school? I grew up in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio in the 70s and 80s. I walked to my elementary school, took a bus to middle school, and then again, walked to high school. My mom was a stay at home mom until I got to middle school and then I was a bit of a latch key kid. There were no cell phones. I didn’t have a GPS tracker on me. I could be gone for hours, out for a run, a bike ride, or hanging out with friends, and my parents had no clue where I was. There was little concern about abductions. No thought of drive by shootings. Of course by the time I was in high school there were kids who were experimenting with drugs and alcohol but many of us spent time out of school either working a part-time job, participating in sports or clubs, or engaged in volunteer work. Heck, I didn’t even spend any time on a computer until I was in high school and then that was limited.

Fast forward to 2020. According to The 2019 Common Sense Census by Common Sense Media, teens spend on average an astonishing seven hours and 22 minutes in front of a screen daily, not including time spent for school or on homework. The exponential speed of adoption of cell phones by teens and tweens has provided opportunities for young people to be connected in ways that are incredibly powerful. There are certainly benefits to the availability of technology, such as the opportunity for parents to be able to reach their children and for young people to have access to tremendous opportunities for learning. There are also significant risks, particularly if parents are not aware of how their children use technology or what sites they visit.

A powerful new documentary, called Childhood 2.0, addresses the impact of technology on young people and their mental health. It is both terrifying and heartbreaking. This 90 minute documentary is available free for viewing on YouTube. It is sponsored in part by Bark, a service that Roycemore utilizes to monitor activity on our Google for Education accounts to alert us to concerning electronic interactions on student accounts related to potential self-harm, violence, or bullying. We encourage all Roycemore parents to set aside time to view the film sometime over the next month. Middle and Upper School families are encouraged to view the film with their children and talk about it with them. In the weeks ahead, we will be engaging Middle and Upper School students in conversations about the topic in advisory. Our social worker, Dr. Gretchen Glader, will be available to support our faculty and students as we lean into this important topic.

On December 7th at 5:30pm, Roycemore will be hosting Critical Conversations on Technology and Student Wellness to take a deeper dive as a community on this topic. We have invited other area independent schools, Baker Demonstration, Chiaravalle Montessori, and Beacon Academy to partner with us. Dr. Benjamin Rosen and Marcus Smith, M.A., L.C.P.C., experts from The Family Institute at Northwestern, will be leading the discussion and addressing questions. We hope you will save the date and join us for this important conversation as we work together to help our children navigate the complexities of adolescence in the digital age. In the weeks leading up to December 7th, we will be sharing additional resources for you to draw from. In the meantime, please be sure to set aside time to watch the film.