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The Damage of Social Media to the lives of our children

Dear parents, Intrusion of Social Media I am writing to you directly as the parents of children in our school to once again highlight the serious dangers posed by the tyranny of social media. There can be no doubt that the intrusion of Social Media in the lives of our children has reached almost endemic proportions. Psychological Harm Research is showing worrying trends of ever-increasing levels of anxiety among young people, leading to huge psychological harm. This anxiety is manifesting itself earlier in the lives of our children and its effects, more severe than ever. And the link between this level of harm and social media is beyond refute. Fall-Out In School As principal, I and the staff of the school, are dealing with the fall-out from the abuse and mis-use of social media almost on a daily basis. It is singularly the biggest problem that we are facing as a school, dwarfing all other issues that we have to deal with. As you know, we have a strict policy of no mobile phones in school. Therefore all of the problems we are dealing with stem from the abuse of social media outside of school, but which have a direct impact on the children, their relationships, their well-bring and their success in school. We simply cannot allow this continue. We cannot sit idly by and watch young lives being blighted by the scourge of social media. And as parents, I must ask you, the primary educators of our children, to take your responsibility in this regard seriously. Need to safeguard our children We would not allow our children to roam the streets of the city unaccompanied late at night. Yet we seem to be unperturbed that our youngsters are able to make contact with, and engage in, highly inappropriate online behaviour, making unsuitable contacts, using unsuitable language, sharing unsuitable images and more on the internet. What can parents do? I cannot stress enough my level of concern for the harm this is doing to our children. I am urging you, the adults in their young lives, to intervene and make a solemn commitment to remove your children from social media for the duration of primary school. The preponderance of different platforms make it exceedingly difficult for parents to adequately monitor all of their children's social media- inevitably children are a number of steps ahead of their parents in hiding their activity and keeping their online world persona from their parents. Indeed, sadly, it has been my experience that even where parents have been under the illusion that they are monitoring their children's online behaviour, their children have managed to hide their activity from their parents and have become involved in very serious and damaging behavior- putting themselves and others at significant risk. The only way to adequately deal with this threat is to remove children from social media entirely and this is what we are asking all parents to do. Digital learners I hope that you will not find my comments alarmist- they certainly are not meant to be- but they come from a sense of deep concern and anxiety that I share with the staff of the school, that our children are being denied their right to their innocence and their own sense of self-worth and self-esteem. We are not seeking to undermine the importance of Digital Literacy as a 21st Century skill for our children- far from it, our school has a very robust and strong programme to support our pupils as digital learners. But in the use of social media, children in our school are too young, and lack the emotional and social maturity to deal with the complexity of challenges which the use of social media presents. Meeting for parents I have been in regular contact with Roseanne Caul, our community Garda, in relation to issues around safeguarding young people, including on-line safety. Roseanne has agreed to facilitate a talk for parents in the school on Monday the 12th November at 7:30pm, where she will seek to help parents to ensure that their children remain safe on-line. We would urge all parents to attend this meeting. Need for the support of all parents This is one of the most serious issues that we as parents face in raising our children. It is a heavy responsibility that falls on our shoulders. We cannot ignore it, we cannot wish it away, nor can we shrug on our shoulders and pretend that this threat is not real. Once again, I implore you to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that our children's well-being is prioritised above all else. I trust that all parents will give this matter their immediate attention and that we will ensure a safer, brighter and more secure future for all our children. Yours sincerely, Enda McGorman Principal 24th October, 2018  

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