As part of our mission to provide a safe environment for our children where they can grow into well rounded flourishing adults, we have many Pastoral Programs which foster social and emotional skills as well as citizenship skills, including digital citizenship. This process is heavily dependent on parental support in terms of discipline, home values, ethics, community service and role modelling. Teachers work in loco parentis, or acting in place of parents, each day in their dealings with students.

With this in mind it is crucial we support each other in our endeavours to raise our charges. Teenagers need firm guidelines at home and at school and in fact are responsive to imposed limits when they can see positive outcomes for themselves.

Over the coming months it is our intention to offer structured support and information to parents, giving tips and advice on how best to manage your teenager at home. We will wholeheartedly support your efforts from a school perspective.

To this end, this week, we would like to respond to some issues arising from recent parental interactions concerning use of phones late at night.  

Info Bite 1 – Sleep and Home Routines

Firstly and topically, you may have seen some of the television and media coverage on lack of sleep amongst adolescents. (Refer to a recent article in the Sun Herald “Digital devices now keeping most Australian teenagers sleep-deprived.”)

The sleep hormone melatonin is depleted by blue light emitted from devices. Many children are interacting with social media long into the night and being disturbed often by phone notifications (one phone confiscated at school last year had 300 notifications on it by the end of one school day!).

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Philip Tam said the “fear of missing out”, also known as FOMO, prevented young people from switching off, and that social media was “intentionally engineered” to create endless conversations. In many cases our adolescents are not getting the recommended nine hours sleep in order for their bodies and minds to rejuvenate effectively.

St Columba strongly recommends that home portable devices are switched off and placed in a central location in the home at an agreed time, say 7.00pm each night, and are retrievable at 7.00am. Of course families would need to negotiate parameters around this routine, and there is a wonderful opportunity for parents to role model this positive behaviour. We would also like to recommend that alarm clocks (good old fashioned battery operated ones) be used as a substitute to phone or web connected alarm devices to ensure sound uninterrupted sleep.  

Most health professionals recommend limiting time spent on social media and switching off screens at least two hours before bed time. Regular routines and bedtimes also assist teenagers in managing their own wellbeing.

As another aside, findings from the OECD PISA report indicates families can make a measurable difference to student wellbeing and academic performance through the simple act of sharing dinner together and talking about events and activities arising from school. The report finds that, across 72 countries, students whose parents reported “spending time just talking to my child”, “eating the main meal with my child around a table”, or “discussing how well my child is doing at school” every week were between 22% and 62% more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction, reporting a 9 or 10 out of a scale of 1 to 10, compared to those students whose families did those things less frequently. See an article on these findings via this link – Article on PISA findings

Our next info-bite will be centred on parent controls and managing web connected devices, an issue most parents find challenging. In the meantime, if you’re keen to keep abreast of current initiatives and learn more about being the best parent you can be, check out the new government cybersafety website at the following link – new esafety website

Tracy Diplock and the Pastoral Team