A couple of weeks ago, WCCS had the privilege of hosting the first annual Educational Therapists of the Carolinas mini-conference. Some of our speakers shared some great information about how to understand the 21st century learner and become more aware of some of the negative effects technology and social media can have on a student’s brain development.
At WCCS, we understand that there are many benefits to using technology appropriately in the classroom, and even believe that it can be used to connect with and reach others for Christ. However, there is powerful research showing that it must be effectively monitored and balanced with more traditional forms of learning - such as reading and having meaningful interactions with teachers. This week, we have asked WCCS Educational Therapist and EXCEL Teacher, Beverley Furrow, to share some insight from conference speaker, Dawn Poulterer Woods to help us all understand and guide our 21st century learners more effectively in school and at home.
The Negative Impact Screen Time Has on Executive Functioning of the Brain: research has shown that social media and gaming are impacting children and adolescent brain development, particularly in the way of executive functioning – this is the area responsible for enabling your student to plan, organize and complete tasks. It is also responsible for regulating emotions and self-monitoring. The part of the brain that houses executive functioning is the frontal lobe, the same part of the brain that is the last to fully develop. When students attempt homework or other cognitive functions while also texting, snap chatting, or multi-tasking with other screen functions, the frontal lobe does not activate properly. Excessive screen time can also lead to Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS), causing your student to have issues with mood, focus, sleep and behavior. Physicians are having an increasingly difficult time distinguishing between ADHD and ESS because the symptoms of each are so similar. Another interesting fact that researchers are discovering is that the smaller the screen size, the greater negative effect the screen activity has on the brain.
Cognitive Offloading: in today’s world, students literally have the world at their fingertips. This is advantageous in that they can explore and research topics quickly, however the ease to which students can retrieve facts from the internet can also inhibit their ability to think deeply on a topic and rely on memory and deep research rather than a search bar. The brain is a muscle and the less it has to work to retrieve information, the weaker and less skilled it will become at learning and performing.
The Dopamine Effect: The types of activities that are performed on screens release dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that is released into the brain and causes pleasure and arousal. This dopamine effect is what produces addictions, including social media and gaming. Research has shown that addictions formed during the teenage years are the hardest to break and can lead to a lifetime of future addiction problems. It is shocking to think that addiction to screen time has become so common among today’s youth that many are being sent to rehabilitation facilitates to regain freedom from these devices. Even if your child never has to go to a rehab facility, consider the effects technology addiction might be having on his or her ability to establish authentic relationships with their peers, teachers and siblings as well as the ability to develop effective communication skills.
Understanding the nature of how students have been created by God physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally, is essential in successfully educating the 21st century learner. As part of God’s intelligent design, developmental stages and readiness must be incorporated into the methods used for teaching and guiding today’s students. The point is not that all things related to screen time are bad. As in all things, the key is moderation. The activities of reading, daydreaming, unstructured play, and encouraging imagination seem a part of the past. Rekindling these skills is essential for today’s students and would bring about a healthier developmental environment for the 21st century learner.
Below are some tips for maintaining proper “screen health” for your 21st century learner.
Talk to your child or teen about the dangers of overuse of technology.
Delay smartphone and tablet use for young kids as long as possible.
Remove all smartphones from your child’s homework area.
Monitor the content and number of hours your child spends on social media throughout the week and set limits.
Have “screen-free zones” such as the dinner table, the morning and afternoon drive home, your student’s bedroom, etc.
For young kids, stop by the park on the way home from school and encourage physical, outdoor play with siblings or friends.
For adolescents, encourage participation in athletic teams, hobbies or service clubs after school.
Your student needs your help navigating the world of technology and social media in a Christ-honoring way. Their brains are simply not cognitively mature enough to resist the many temptations, pressures and distraction that smartphones and other technology devices pose. As Christian educators, we want to partner with you in sharing helpful information on this growing topic of discussion. For more resources on this topic, visit www.familiesmanagingmedia.com.
In the fall, we featured a blog from Michelle Embry about how to facilitate a “boy friendly” environment in the home and classroom. This week, we have asked Ashley Sapp, our Upper School College & Career Counselor, to share her thoughts about how to help our girl’s succeed in the classroom and beyond.
What do I know about girls? Well, first of all, I am one. Second of all, I have three children- two of whom are girls. And, I’ve been blessed to work with teenagers, particularly girls, for the last 14 years. When I was 18 years old, God called me to teach teenagers about Him. And since then, I have been blessed to live out God’s call on my life, both in church and as a career. As I serve as a mother, Sunday school teacher, and College & Career Counselor, there are a few things I’ve learned that I believe will be helpful for those raising and/or working with girls.
Mentors Are Needed
In Titus 2, Paul urged older women to live in a way that honored God so that they could train the younger women in love, wisdom, purity, and submission. I am fortunate to have been raised by strong women- my mother, my grandmothers, and countless women who invested in me from a young age. While the women in my life never gave me identical bits of wisdom, all of their advice came from the same source- Jesus Christ and His love for me. My mother was the first woman to teach me about Jesus’ sacrifice for me. I can recall my grandmothers urging me to give my very best no matter the task. Mrs. Martha showed me a love for music. Mrs. Alice modeled a strong prayer life. Mrs. Kay treated me like her very own daughter. Mrs. Linda challenged me as a young Sunday school teacher. Mrs. Leslie and Mrs. Regina helped me navigate a tough time in my life. Along the way, God has placed older women in my life who have answered the call to mentor me as a young lady.
Note- I must stop and say THANKS to Mrs. Jan Odom, who mentors me daily. Jan has been much more than a co-worker to me, and I am so thankful for her advice, prayers, and encouragement. Many of the WCCS women, past and present, have made and continue to make a profound impact in my life! Our students are blessed to have such a strong group of faculty and staff surrounding them with godly support and encouragement.
This is a vital part of a girl’s success. I’m sure those who are reading this now can think of women who have invested in them. Just imagine if these individuals had not invested in us. I encourage you to stop here and ask God to reveal a young lady who needs your attention. A bit of caution here- while girls definitely need older women to come alongside them, we must be careful in how we approach our role. I wouldn’t necessarily call the women I mentioned previously my friends. While these women loved me and listened to me, they ALWAYS shared the truth with me- even when it was difficult. In addition, they modeled godly behavior for me- they didn’t simply tell me what I should and should not do. I’d also like to point out that the women who have had the most profound impact on me were my immediate family and extended church family. I believe strongly in supporting the local church, through faithful attendance, financial giving, and service. If you are not currently involved in a local church, I urge you to join one and begin serving. You will quickly find younger ladies who need you as a mentor.
Define and Observe Success
I get to ask young people the same question all the time- “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When I ask my own daughters this question, my older daughter describes her future bakery. My youngest daughter sometimes mentions computers, ninjas, or teaching. While they both have plenty of time to discover what God has called them to, it’s not too early to teach them that it is God who calls them and equips them…AND God can equip them to do exceedingly more than they can imagine. Girls need help to develop a sound definition for success, and they need to observe successful women along the way. How are we currently defining success for the young ladies in our lives? Do we focus on academic achievement, athletic prowess, or outward beauty? While none of these are wrong, putting too much emphasis on these aspects of life prevent girls from understanding why they were created by God. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Girls need to know that they were created BY God and FOR God, and their purpose is to exalt Him and share His love with others. Success comes when we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. We must encourage our girls to consider how God has uniquely created them, and how their gifts/talents/interests can be used to exalt Him and love others. We must offer them opportunities to see godly women succeeding in a variety of roles and BE examples of success for them also.
Celebrating the No and Trying Again
In my roles, I sometimes have to help students process a college rejection letter, athletic ineligibility, broken relationships, and more. This part of my job is not easy, but it happens. In recent years, I’ve tried to develop a positive attitude towards the “no” in my own life, and I believe girls need to be challenged in this way as well. We must encourage the girls in our lives to trust that God is in control, and when He says “no”, it is for His glory and our good. A “no” keeps us FROM something. It may be God’s way of protecting us from harm or redirecting us to a place of greater blessing. Whatever the reason, young ladies need help with processing rejection, and they need to be encouraged to try again or to try something new when things don’t turn out the way they hoped. Furthermore, young ladies need to be challenged to see beyond what IS to what COULD BE. As a young teenager and perfectionist, I used to get caught up in my mistakes, and I would overthink so many of my decisions. Of course, this caused me to be anxious and afraid to take risks. Thankfully, I had older women in my life who spurred me on to be brave and to step out of my comfort zone. Our girls need this same push! Bravery is not the lack of fear, but it is action in the face of fear. We need to encourage our young ladies to be brave and to step out of their comfort zones as God calls them.
Be a Blessing
As much as our girls need to be blessed, we must equip them to bless others. This goes back to God’s purpose for our lives. I believe every human’s purpose is the same- to have a personal relationship with Jesus and to share His love (the Gospel) with those around us. HOW we share His love is unique to the gifts/talents/interests God has given to us, and our HOW changes with the seasons of life. Girls need to be reminded of their purpose and given opportunities to discover their gifts/talents/interests so that they can share God’s love. This will produce contentment and joy. This will allow our young ladies to thrive. I want nothing more than for my daughters to fall in love with Jesus and to discover how they can share His love with others. What is your greatest hope for the girls in your life?
As parents, we think a lot about the future. We wonder if the decisions we are making today will best prepare our children for the futures in front of them, partly because we can not even grasp what life will be like for them decades from now. We desire above all else to have no greater joy than for them to walk in the truth and to discover and live out their places in God's world. But we aren't sure how to end up there. We know it takes the work of the Holy Spirit and we are praying to that end. We also know that our parenting matters.
If you are like me, you need all the help you can get. My wife Amy and I have needed to partner with the Christian school and the church in the raising of our four kids. And, I spent time over Christmas break with my oldest son and daughter-in-law talking about the support we received from these two communities and encouraged the same for them in the raising of their newborn son, Jay.
Christian education is a topic for which I am quite passionate, so much so that I was asked to participate in a podcast hosted by our church's denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. As you know, we are currently in the middle of our priority re-enrollment period. I encourage you to take some time to listen to the following podcast at the link I have provided below and consider the value of a Christian education in the world our kids are living in today. It is my hope and prayer that you will continue to seek out your local church and WCCS as partners in raising your children, so that they are educated to bless our world as disciples of Jesus Christ!