What They Think – Middle School & Social Media

** I recently conducted a survey to gain an understanding of what middle school children (grades 5 – 8) think about their experiences with cell phones usage & social media.  The survey was conducted on the website http://www.surveyplanet.com and was anonymous.  I wrote all of the questions.  I received 94 responses and they are detailed out in this post.  The statements, thoughts and opinions made about the responses are mine. **

Recently, our middle school hosted a meeting for parents of upcoming sixth graders.  I sat in this meeting and listened to one of our Vice Principals passionately speak about his experiences & opinions with cell phone and social media usage with our middle school children.  He spoke of the challenges that he faces as a school administrator on a daily basis that could be prevented if, 1) children of middle school ages did not have cell phones, 2) children that have cell phones did not bring them to school, 3) children that have cell phones and bring them to school followed the rules and left them in their lockers during the day, 4) social media was not being used by middle school children.  I absolutely agreed with his statements, concerns and advice, which centered around the following:

  • Middle school children do not need a cell phone to be successful in their middle school experience.
  • Middle school children should not be using social media – the dangers outweigh any benefit at their age.

One opinion he shared with us that night –

We go to great lengths to protect our children.  We lock our doors at night.  We have elaborate and expensive security systems in our homes.  Yet, we are handing our children devices, paying FOR them out of our own pockets, that are putting them at greater danger than any locked door or alarm system.

I went home that night and began thinking of our family’s experiences, which I understand may be different than yours.  My husband and I have made it a priority to create guidelines and boundaries with devices and social media.  With one child that has almost completed her middle school years and another child entering the experience, we feel it’s top priority to be knowledgeable and proactive.  Although I agreed with our principal, I thought about the children.  What do they really think about this?  We can do our best as parents to learn, but are we asking the questions to them that may guide our future decisions?  Are we educating ourselves and in turn, educating them?

It is my belief that we live in a society that values ‘fitting in’ more than being left behind or doing what’s right.  I believe that even more than the children, we as adults want to fit in, and we model this behavior to our children on a daily basis.

What happens when your 9, 10, 11, 12 year old child comes home daily, begging for a cell phone?  What happens when this child begs for an Instagram or Snapchat account?  The child definitely will claim that they are the ‘only ones’ without one and they will likely detail out all of the ways that they are suffering because of it.  As parents, what is our response?  More often than not, we give in.  We give in to fit in. 


“I tried to hold out as long as I could….”

This statement was made by a grown adult of an 11 year old child that was begging for social media.  Perhaps you are also shaking your head, wondering why this child’s desire for fitting in pushed this parent beyond a perceived point of no return?  Is it the parent’s own desire to be accepted or the desire for her child to be?  Does this alarm you?  It should.

When we succumb to beliefs like this and openly make these statements to others, we prove that we are simply desiring to fit in rather than parent appropriately.  And other parents follow suit, because – if it was ok for that parent to do, then it should be ok for me and my child too.  And here we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle.  Children of immature age, immersed in topics, feelings, emotions and desires that they are not equipped to deal with.  Parents that are likely equally unequipped in dealing with the fallout of these emotions at the child’s young age.  School administrators, teachers and counselors, that have had to become equipped to deal with this fallout.

I write this because I have been there.  I gave my middle school daughter a phone and permission to have an Instagram account when she was 12.  It wasn’t long after she started using Instagram that she decided to stay clear of it.  She removed the app from her phone, and although she still has an active account, it is rarely touched.  Why?  Because she didn’t like the way it made her feel.  She was aware of the complexity, the feelings, the emotions – and she knew it was beyond what she should be experiencing.  I realize that all children are different – but this was her experience.  And it sure did teach me a lot.

Because of our personal experience with our daughter, after listening to our administrator speak, I really wanted to know more about what the kids were thinking. I decided to construct this survey and I asked that middle school children answer it honestly.  I wrote the questions with our students in mind, with the hopes that their answers and experiences will help to educate those parents that will soon face these decisions.


The following questions & responses were gathered anonymously by middle school students in the 5th – 8th grade (approximate ages 10-14 years old).  I received 94 responses to the survey.

  1. What age were you given, or allowed to purchase a smart phone?
    • 10 or under – 19%
    • 11 – 42%
    • 12 – 23%
    • 13 – 9%
    • I do not own my own phone – 6%
  2. Do your parents monitor your phone usage (time limits that you are allowed to be on your device)?
    • Yes – 70%
    • No – 30%
  3. Are you permitted to have your device in your room during the night?
    • Yes – 58%
    • No – 42%
  4. Do your parents have an app where they can turn off the apps on your phone at any given time?
    • Yes – 33%
    • No – 67%
  5. Are you permitted to have social media (even just one type)?
    • Yes – 78%
    • No – 22%
  6. If you use social media, on which apps do you have an account?
    • Instagram – 40%
    • Shapchat – 28%
    • Facebook – 6%
    • Twitter – 6%
    • Other – 9%
    • N/A – 11%
  7. Do you believe your parents monitor your social media accounts?
    • Yes – 69%
    • No – 9%
    • Only the ones they know about – 3%
    • N/A – 18%
  8. Have you ever hidden a profile from your parents?
    • Yes – 11%
    • No – 67%
    • N/A – 12%
  9. Are number of followers important to you?
    • Yes – 29%
    • No – 71%
  10. Do you feel that there is a correlation between number of likes on your posts and how liked & accepted you are by others?
    • Yes – 36%
    • No – 64%
  11. Do you compare yourself to others based on what you see on their social media feeds?
    • Yes – 44%
    • No – 56%
  12. Do you ever feel ‘lesser than’ others when looking at social media feeds?
    • Yes – 42%
    • No – 58%
  13. Have you ever witnessed cyber bullying on any of your social media accounts?
    • Yes – 38%
    • No – 62%
  14. Have you been a victim of cyber bullying?
    • Yes – 17%
    • No – 83%
  15. Do you believe parents that are monitoring accounts are aware of everything that goes on on social media?
    • Yes – they know everything – 21%
    • Maybe – they know some things – 59%
    • No Way – they are clueless – 21%
  16. Have you used social media in school when you know it’s against policy to do so?
    • All the time – 18%
    • Once or twice – 35%
    • Never – 47%
  17. Have you take pictures in school classrooms that you have posted to Snapchat and/or Instagram?
    • Yes – 38%
    • No – 62%
  18. Do you believe that your teachers are aware that students are using social media during class time?
    • Yes – 62%
    • No – 38%
  19. Do you feel addicted to social media?
    • Yes – 25%
    • No – 75%
  20. Do you think social media makes middle school easier or harder to navigate?
    • Easier – 38%
    • Harder – 62%
  21. Do you often feel excluded when looking through your feeds?
    • Often – 14%
    • Sometimes – 55%
    • Never – 31%
  22. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend (if applicable), how do you feel about sharing about it on social media?
    • Proud/Important – 10%
    • Popular/Cool – 4%
    • Embarrassed/Uncomfortable – 5%
    • Indifferent – 10%
    • N/A – 71%
  23. When you are spending time with friends, do you feel you spend more time taking pictures to post than actually enjoying your time together?
    • Yes – 25%
    • No – 75%
  24. Do you feel social media is being used to spread kindness/positivity or create tension/negativity?
    • Most of what I see is positive – 17%
    • A little of both – 68%
    • Most of what I see is negative – 15%
  25. Use a few words to describe what social media means to you (not every response is noted).
    • It is a fun way to express yourself.
    • I would be much more popular if I had social media.
    • Annoying.  Kids don’t talk to one another anymore.
    • A way to compare yourself to others
    • Judges yourself, dumb, not needed
    • A way for people to share the good parts of life
    • Social media means drama and rumors
    • Keeps me entertained
    • A way to keep up with friends and family
    • A way to show an image of you without meeting you
    • Social media is a good way to communicate.
    • It is fun sometimes but annoying
    • I think social media is just to get attention.

I would love to put some interpretation on these results and give you some things to think about if you are trying to determine when the best time to explore cell phones and/or social media with your child.

PHONE USAGE/SAFETY:

  • 19% of the children received their own smart phone at the age of TEN OR BELOW.
  • 30% of the children’s phone usage is NOT MONITORED.
  • 58% of children are permitted to have their phone in their BEDROOM AT NIGHT.
  • 53% of students are using social media during school when they know it’s against policy to do so and 62% believe their teachers are aware of this!

SOCIAL MEDIA:

  • 29% believe that number of followers are important to them.
  • 36% feel that there is a correlation between number of likes on their posts and how liked & accepted they are by others.
  • 44% compare themselves to others on their social media feeds.
  • 42% feel ‘lesser than’ others based on what they see in their feeds.
  • 69% feel exclusion of some kind when looking at their feeds.
  • 38% have witnessed cyber bullying, 17% say they have been bullied themselves.
  • 25% feel addicted to social media.
  • 62% feel that social media makes middle school harder to navigate.

There are many things that are uncovered in these questions, but I will make my conclusion on that final statement.

62% of children surveyed feel that social media makes middle school harder to navigate.


Parents, consider this.

Middle school years are likely some of the hardest that your child will experience.  We all want our children to grow and develop into strong, confident young adults.  And we all want to help them.  I believe that we are living in the lie that fitting in with their peers helps them in their middle school experience – that it eases their burdens.  I’m not sure about you, but when 62% of children say that social media makes middle school harder to navigate, does that give you second thoughts?  Do you see the percentages of students that feel ‘lesser than’, that are comparing themselves to others and are feeling addicted and excluded?

What price are we paying for them to fit in or for US to?

I believe there is a time when social media is beneficial and can be used for good.  And it’s up to each of us to decide when that time is for our children.  I hope these results help you in that journey.

Not Today…. I’m Reading

When 2018 began, I had disconnected from Facebook and made it a point to have a book in my hand more often than my phone.  It’s a goal I don’t regret crafting and sticking to. I can hardly believe it, but I just finished my 20th book of the year so far!

I know there are many readers out there, so I’d love to share what I’ve been reading & what I’ve loved.  First off, let me recommend that if you are a reader, create an account on Goodreads.  Here is a link to my profile, where we can connect –  www.goodreads.com/JSandora.  I always have my current read posted.  This is also where I get recommendations from many trusted reader friends.  I’m sure you agree that time is precious, and I want to be certain I’m picking a great book to fill it!  Goodreads absolutely helps with that.

Now onto the FIRST 20 of the year:

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5 STARS:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Fiction) – I have two ABSOLUTE favorites so far and they are both by the same author.  Fredrik Backman is knocking my socks off.  I absolutely love his writing.  This particular book is about a grumpy old man called Ove (pronounced Ovay) that is completely irresistible. YOU WILL LOVE IT.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Fiction) – The second favorite by Backman is 100% different from Ove.  Again, his writing kept me turning pages fast with this one.  There was suspense, surprise and a lot to think about by the end of this one.  Don’t pass on it by thinking that hockey may not be your thing.  This book packs a big punch!

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (Non Fiction) – AHHHHHHH…..  Hard to begin to describe the beauty of this one.  Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a 36 year old successful neurosurgeon that faced his own mortality with a Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis.  Paul explores beautifully – ‘What makes life worth living in the face of death?’

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Fiction) – Yes, it’s Oprah’s latest book club pick.  And yes, that may be why I picked it up.  But I loved it.  I really did.

Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult (Fiction) – My word, this book.  I had never before explored the topic of white supremacy and if you haven’t either, be ready for your eyes to pop out of your head.  Although fiction, this gave me a 100% different perspective on race, tolerance, privilege and compassion.  I recommend it highly.  We can not ever understand that which we do not attempt to see.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (Historical Fiction – based on a true story – WW2) – For some reason, I am slightly tired of the World War II non fiction stories.  But this one got me, the main reason being, it was based on a true story of the author’s family.  It is a beautiful story, weaved together in a way that will keep you 100% all in until the last page.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Fiction) – Eleanor, she’s quite an interesting character!  This was a quirky book, but I came away with so many surprises.  In case you are wondering, Eleanor Oliphant is everything but fine.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Fiction) – This book isn’t something I’m normally drawn to, but I’m glad I spent time here.  It was a scandalous story, but heartbreaking too.  Evelyn spent her life – through seven husbands – hiding the biggest secret of all. You will empathize and likely cry.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (Non Fiction) – I call this a must read for absolutely everyone that will face their own mortality – yes, all of us.  It’s just a must read.  So often we are focused only on the good life, and doctors are trained to keep us enjoying it.  Unfortunately, doctors are not trained as well on helping people experience a good death.  This doctor had the courage to face the topic.  I learned a ton and gained much insight.

 

4 STARS:

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (Historical Fiction – WW1/WW2) – I could give the second half of this book 5 stars, but the first half of it for me was like 2 stars.  It’s a long book and it took me at least 200 pages to want to keep going.  I’m glad I did and I recommend you do too.  There are two story lines – the second much more interesting to me, but the story came together with excitement and suspense by the end.  This was highly recommended.  I see why, but I don’t recommend it as highly as others.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (Historical Fiction – WW2) – Another World War II novel that came highly recommended.  Beautiful, heartbreaking stories.  I liked it.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Historical Fiction) – Good story, also heartbreaking.  I enjoyed it!

Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson (Non Fiction) – Wow – this book opened my eyes to the criminal justice system, those left un-defended and wrongly accused.  It made me re-evaluate my thoughts on capital punishment.  Another novel that caused me to learn and grow.  Also a page turner.

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham (Thriller) – This thriller was better than ‘Girl on the Train’ for me.  Agatha – ya, she’s crazy.  You’ll like this page turner!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Thriller) – Good thriller – not the best I’ve read, but had me turning the pages quickly!

What Alice Forgot by Laine Moriarty (Fiction) – Loved this book.  Alice has an accident that causes her to wake and think it is 10 years prior.  This one was sad & funny – loved so much about it.  It made me think a ton about how 10 years can change a person!

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White (Fiction) – Karen White is one of my favorite authors.  I am guaranteed to be engrossed in her stories.  I’ve read almost all of them!  This one was no different.  It wasn’t my absolute favorite, but very very good.  Karen is an Atlanta based author that writes of the South so well.

Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle (Non Fiction, Christian Memoir) – Melanie – love her books.  She is fun to read, makes me laugh and cry, often in the same chapter.  This one was more of 3.5 stars and mainly because I felt there was a lot of filler in her chapters.  Great topics, lots of filler.

 

3 STARS:

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (Young Adult, Historical Fiction – WW2) – This book was a hard one for me.  Three stars may be generous here.  I had a hard time getting into these characters – just could not connect.  This was an interesting part of WW2 that I didn’t know about, though, so learning more about the single greatest tragedy in maritime history (surprisingly, NOT the Titanic).

Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Non Fiction) – Fascinating history about girls that worked in Radium Dial factories – their stories are absolutely heart wrenching (be prepared for that), but seeing justice finally be done made this a bit more rewarding.  I give it 3 stars because it’s long and difficult to read because of the real-life goriness. So so sad what these women experienced.

 

Stay tuned – here’s what will be coming in my next 20!

UP NEXT:

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (Fiction)

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Fiction)

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan (Non Fiction, Self Help)

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (Fiction)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Fiction)

Last suggestion for everyone – please support your local library!  I decided to do that this year, and wow, what a money saver.  These 20 books alone would have likely cost at least $150 on Amazon, but probably more.  I have found gratitude in our public library system!

Happy Reading!

Strong Women

March 8 – International Women’s Day
A spark was lit somewhere deep in my heart recently that I believe coincided with the #MeToo movement of the last few months.  I suddenly had a deeper desire to understand.  You see, we stay closed-minded to that which we do try not understand.
For the past few years of my life, I have been blessed to be surrounded by positive female influences – strong leaders, business owners, world changers.  Many of these women have believed in me and given me the courage and desire to speak and do more with the gifts that God has given me.  These experiences over the last few years have shaped me and my understanding of what’s possible for women both in the workforce and at home today.  Last year on March 8, I joined hands with a group of women I admire greatly and went to work on a project that impacted people and helped them be greater.  This was my current world.  And the voice in my head was screaming, “We are equal! We can do just as much!  We are doing it – just look at us!”
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Interesting, though….
How quickly I forgot what the prior 10 years had been like.  Or maybe even the 10 years prior to that – in both the workforce and in relationships.
I began my career in 1998 in the male dominated industry of public accounting, working 60 hour weeks during busy season and crying in bathrooms because I was talked down to and made to feel foolish for not understanding the intricate rules of Accounting.
Fast forward a couple of years to a male supervisor that talked daily of his extra-marital affair and open marriage to a group of young women that he oversaw, me included.  A man whose ‘office talk’ and inappropriate behavior eventually got him fired.
Fast forward again a couple of years to the male boss that not only was fired, but for as much as I know, still sits in prison for his inappropriate behavior.
How could I forget all of this?  Had I forgotten or just pushed it somewhere back in a deep corner, rarely spoken of?
_____
I felt it was important to write about this because of these children that I am trying to raise up to be God loving, respectful & kind humans.  They are each going to have their own stories, face inferiority at times in their lives, and hopefully rise stronger and more equipped.  I feel it’s my job to begin to teach and equip them now, as children.  One of the best ways to do that is by example.
I want to show my daughter that she can be all she dreams to be – maybe it’s a mother, maybe it’s a business owner, maybe it’s a hard working woman, maybe it’s all of the above – she’s worthy of all of that and more. May she know she has a voice that should be heard, that she never has to be silent. May she be brave enough to fight for what she believes in.
I want to teach my sons that women are their equal. I want our words and actions to show that we respect each other. I want them to believe that women have the same voice & influence that they possess.
For me, this isn’t just about teaching our daughters.  It’s about teaching our sons.
______
I’ve been blessed by women like Nancy, Susanne, Doreen, Elizabeth & Judi (and so many more), who have given me a chance and shaped me with their wisdom and guidance.  I was blessed by Anne back in 1998, when she helped open a door for me in the professional, male dominated world.  Although it wasn’t my forever career, it played a big part in defining who I am today.  I will never forget Anne telling me how she fought to get me that offer.  I’m still so thankful today that she believed in me.
Women have paved the way for me on this journey of life, whether it be in the professional world or at home.  So many of them – beginning with my own mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.  Strong women have helped me to become strong, even if only by their example.  Just today, I heard from a friend that just left her daughter in London for 6 months, an ocean away, to pursue her dreams.  What a strong woman that raised a strong woman.  It’s an example like this that continues to shape me.
We will make mistakes on this journey.  We will feel we aren’t getting it right a whole bunch of times.  But as women, we must continue rise up.  Speak.  Not to be above any other woman or man, but to be on an equal playing field of opportunity and more importantly, respect.
Happy International Women’s Day – may you use your voice for good!