Taking inventory of the technological gadgets in my home, I find the following: Windows desktop computer (1), Windows laptop (1), 2-in-1 convertible Windows laptop (1), Windows tablet (1), iPad (1), four cell phones (3 Android, 1 iOS), cable/internet modem and wi-fi router, internet-connected TV (2), Nest thermostat (1), Echo Dot (1), a Roku, an internet-connected home security system, our vehicle (AndroidAuto + built-in internet connection), a Wii, a PS2 and PS3, a 3DS, and several wired / bluetooth speakers, headphones and earbuds (and this isn’t counting the various technological gadgets my son has with him at college!).
I think that, for most of our homes, the list would be about the same, and could include smart appliances, smart watches, network enabled lights, and many other IoT (internet of things) devices. For all the hand-wringing that these devices seem to elicit, for many people they’re part and parcel of work, family and recreation. And so the starting point for a reflection on digital citizenship for me begins with the realization that these gadgets are, in and of themselves, not evil – they’re tools, and their perceived (not intrinsic) goodness or evilness is rooted in the way they’re used.
The same holds true for the digital spaces where people gather and the digital tools we use to communicate. On any given day I’ll use one or more of the following spaces and tools to communicate with people: email (personal and work), Facebook / Facebook Messenger, texting, Instagram, Reddit, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitch, Skype, YouTube, and WOW. Our children may use any of those or others, including: FaceTime, Snapchat, Pinterest, DeviantArt, GroupMe, Kik Messenger, Tik Tok (including musical.ly), Tumblr, Houseparty, Live.me, YouNow, Jott Messenger, Weibo, Flickr, Periscope, Meerkat, Livestream, and Stream; they may also connect with friends far and wide through their video game consoles and associated apps.
None of these digital spaces and apps are evil in and of themselves, and our primary task as parents is to teach and guide our children in the proper use of these tools. Just as we would never drop off our tweenagers at the Mall without repeatedly asking questions and giving instructions (Who’s going to be there? Are their parents going to be there? Do I have their phone number? You have your phone with you, right? Fully charged? What did we say about talking to strangers? How much can you spend today? You have your wallet and cash on you, right? Which stores are you not allowed to go into again? What’s our safe word? Remember to call me if anything happens! I’m picking you up right at 3 pm at the food court. Remember to eat lunch!), so we don’t let them loose on their digital devices without guidance. And just as we teach them to use utensils and to navigate their physical space, we must teach them to use the digital apps that are part of their digital landscape.
CommonSense Media gives us the following statistics:
- 70% of teens use social media of some sort (just six years ago it was 34%)
- Almost all adolescents own a personal phone and / or tablet
- One third of adolescents use social media for about an hour a day
- Adolescents prefer social media and video chat to face to face conversation with peers
- 49% of adolescents rate social media use as “not too important / somewhat important”
- For adolescents in already vulnerable situations (poverty, traumatic home situations, depressed, etc.) - social media use can be more negative
- However, tech and social media are an important avenue of creative expression for many adolescents, both in vulnerable situations and in nurturing home situations
- Only 13% of adolescents say they’ve been cyberbullied
- While 23% say they've tried to help someone who is being bullied
So while news stories can sensationalize isolated incidents, the vast majority of children who are spending time online are safe; they will not get contacted by online predators, and any violent or sexual imagery they find will most likely be accidental. Having said that, though, there are many steps that parents can take to ensure that children are safely accessing the internet and using their digital devices for school and play:
- The first and most important step: continually talk to your children about their health and safety; just as we don’t tell them once “brush your teeth” and then never bring it up again, conversations about their bodies, minds and souls, respect, safety (both online and offline) and matters of the heart should be ongoing and based on their age and interest in the topic
- Constant reminders that they can talk to their parents or other trusted adults about their lives are also necessary
- If you are uncomfortable or unsure how to talk to your children about these topics, speak with another trusted adult, or look for print or digital resources to help give you strategies to broach the topics and to answer any questions your children may have
- Specifically for media use and consumption: model the behavior you want your kids to practice – if they see you using your phone while you drive (which is both dangerous and illegal!), they’ll balk at you telling them not to touch their phone when they start driving; if you’re on your tablet at the dinner table, they’ll resent being told to put away their digital device; if you respond to every “ding” of your smart watch, they’ll wonder why they can’t text their friend right away; and if you spend four hours three times a week watching the pre-game, game, and game analysis for every major sporting event, they’ll be upset when they’re told they can only play their Xbox for one hour; the same holds true if you’re binge watching your favorite show for hours on end!
- If your children are using any social media accounts (see the list earlier in the article), teach them (and learn how, if unsure) to put all accounts on private, so that only people they specifically want to see their posts can see them
- However, remind them that nothing is ever 100% private – all it takes is one screenshot accidentally (or purposefully) sent out and that private message or personal picture can now be anywhere on the internet; once something is uploaded, it’s virtually impossible to fully remove its online presence; a good rule of thumb is to never send anything – text or image – that they would not want the whole world to see or read
- Parents should have access to digital devices and know all passwords that children use for their accounts; there’s no hard and fast rule as to when to start giving children more digital privacy, but having this information as part of their device use up to Junior High is not unreasonable
- Children should not be allowed unsupervised access to digital equipment or digital accounts – devices and accounts should be accessed in well-travelled places at home, not in a private room with a closed door
- Children should be taught to not give out personally identifiable information online, or to post images or text that can be used to pinpoint their schedule or location
- GPS / location tracking should be turned off as much as possible on digital devices for children
- Make sure all privacy and search setting are set on internet browsers children use, and that chat filters are turned on for any online games children play; this will help minimize their exposure to images or phrases that they are not developmentally ready for or are not appropriate for them
- Finally, if your child does come across any images, websites or text that makes them uncomfortable, continually reassuring them that they will not be in trouble for bringing it to your attention will help them feel more comfortable coming to you if they accidentally stumble across something that is inappropriate or scary for them
The best way, though, to keep our kids safe and healthy online is to be present with them. Just as we attend their concerts, games, competitions, parties and school events, we are challenged to be present with them as they watch their favorite video or show (even if it’s the tenth time this week!), play their favorite video games (how many times is Mario going around the same track?), or listen to their favorite music (Taylor Swift again? BTS again?). If we can allow them the space and time to develop into the person God created them to be, we are showing them that they are important by valuing the things that they are interested in. Our guidance and discipline will be most effective when they can see that we are not condemning their choices out of hand, but are willing to lovingly and sometimes sacrificially enter into their lives with our time and energy.
Resources / Articles
- Common Sense Media
- PBS Parents
- 50 Questions To Ask Your Kids Instead Of Asking “How Was Your Day”
- How We Were Fooled Into Thinking That Sexual Predators Lurk Everywhere
- Browser Security – Tips, Guidelines and Best Practices
- What is the IoT? Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things right now
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
May Saint: Bl. Juliana of Norwich
Parable: The Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
Each month at Our Lady of Sorrows we explore a particular parable of Jesus, a saint from the great cloud of witnesses that surround us (see Hebrews 12:1), and a virtue (generally taken from the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 5:9, & 2 Peter 1:5-7] or the cardinal & theological virtues). The parable, saint and virtue are incorporated into our morning prayer, religion bulletin boards and religion classes. This focus on one parable, one saint and one virtue complements our Words of Wisdom program and serves as a supplement to our religion curriculum. This month we focus on the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), the virtue of Generosity, and Bl. Juliana of Norwich.
God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work. Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went. He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, "Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?" They said, "Because no one hired us." He told them to go to work in his vineyard.
When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, "Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first." Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, "These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun."
“He replied to the one speaking for the rest, "Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?"
Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first. (Matthew 20:1-16, The Message Translation)
On a human level, it's interesting that this particular employer makes several trips into town, and on each pass he hires people to go and work. It seems a bit wasteful of him to hire a few people, then come back several times to hire again and again. It makes him seem like he either doesn’t really know what he’s doing (why not just hire everyone you need at one go?) or he’s just a bit scatter-brained – either way, not exactly a poster child for the kingdom of heaven!
On a more theological level, if we take the landowner as a symbol for God, then we have God asking us: “Why do you stand here idle all day?” It reminds us of the second Genesis creation story where Adam and Eve are hiding under a bush in the garden and God asks, “Where are you?” In both cases, God already knows the answer . . . it’s telling that God asks the question not for God’s own benefit, but for our benefit – the listeners of the tale.
Once read this way, the story immediately brings us into it’s telling: what is God asking of us? Why are we standing around while we could be serving others? Is the work / ministry we’re doing incarnating the kingdom of heaven? Have we fallen into a rut, doing things not for the greater glory of God but simply out of habit?
As the parable continues, we find the phrase: The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. The kingdom of heaven isn’t just the landowner, it’s everything in the parable – in some way, the kingdom of heaven is like the landowner, but it’s also like the vineyard, and it’s also like the hired hands.
If we look at the kingdom of heaven as the vineyard, then the coming reign of God is expansive, luscious, verdant, alive . . . a delight for our bodily senses and needs. It is a place where we can slake our thirst and feed our hungers, a place where we can work and play, sleep and dream . . . it conjures up images of families gathered around the fruits of their labors at the close of day, ready to rest, but also ready to greet the dawning of the new day.
Seen as the workers, the kingdom of heaven is something that must be actively sought – it won’t come to you. You have to go to where the kingdom is to be found . . . maybe even go to places or people that are different; not respectable; out of our comfort zone. It may mean seeing the kingdom of heaven in the unwed mother, in the unjust government, in the immigrant, in the prisoner, in the suicide bomber, in the vicious lawyer, in the stubborn pastor, in the person of the opposite political party, or in the person of another culture, creed or caste. It’s a reminder that the kingdom of God is in more places and in more people than our fractured human heart can ever imagine.
Finally, seen as the landowner, the kingdom of God can be seen as growing in fits and spurts – there will be times of great growth, where new members are coming into our communities, and times of stagnation, where it seems no one new graces the doors of our churches or schools for weeks, or months or years. There will be times of great personal growth, when we can literally see ourselves changing into the image of Christ Jesus, and dark nights of the soul where we’re sure God would never want to be close to one such as us.
In the end, we come back to a feeling that the kingdom of God will be all of this and more – an experience of the greatness of a God that, more than anything, wants to be generous, even with those that others may see as “the last.”
Blessed Juliana of Norwich
Born around 1342 and died around 1416, Juliana lived a normal life until she became gravelly ill. On her deathbed at the age of 30, a priest came in to hear her confession and anoint her with holy oils in preparation for death. As he was praying for her, she had a series of sixteen visions which finished when she made a full recovery. She wrote down the visions, and then selflessly devoted her life to prayer and spiritual counseling, becoming an anchoress (someone who renounces her former life and the world to live a life of prayer and solitude), and eventually, towards the end of her life, giving her whole day to prayer, reading and writing, with no other human contact whatsoever.
Blessed Juliana lived at a time when many communities were ravaged by plague, disease, lack of food, and family deaths. She counseled numerous people through their darkest times, but never once gave up on hope. Even as she longed to spend more time in solitude and prayer, she opened up her life to the countless pilgrims and parishioners who wanted to speak with her throughout the day.
Our virtue for the month is generosity. Bl. Juliana is a perfect example of this, as she gave of her time and talents to help as many people as she could. In our families we are challenged to be generous with patience, forgiveness, understanding and time. In our community we are challenged to be generous to individuals and institutions who need our help to help others. And in our personal life we are challenged to be generous to every individual who crosses our path, imitating Jesus is giving all that is asked of us for the greater glory of God and for the building up of the body of Christ.
May we strive to outdo each other in generosity of giving and in generosity of spirit as we continue on our journey to the true happiness of heaven.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
Principal’s Report to OLS School Community
SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT STUDY
Earlier in the school year Monsignor Barrera and the school council gave us permission to bring in outside educational consultants to conduct a school improvement study. The purpose of the study is to examine all areas relevant to student achievement, including instructional delivery, testing and curriculum, and strengthen them as needed. The consultants have begun their observations and collection of data in the middle school grades and will continue until the school year ends. We look forward to the final report and implementing their suggestions on how to continue to better our school.
Alliance with Notre Dame University
OLS School is in partnership with the University of Notre Dame and its Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program. ACE program promotes Catholic education among graduate students seeking their Master in Education degree and places those highly qualified graduates in Catholic schools across the country. OLS is fortunate to have two such teachers on campus – Mr. DeSapio and Ms. Sternberg. Although Mr. DeSapio will be leaving at the end of the school year, a teacher has already been assigned to the position beginning in August.
OLS is applying for participation in the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education program (SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGY / ENGINEERING / MATH) through the University of Notre Dame. This competitive program selects, funds, and trains cohorts of teachers who commit to a 3 summers, 2 school years intensive program that focuses on implementing STEM into all areas of the school curriculum. The program collaborates with researchers and practitioners at Notre Dame and across the nation to help all students innovate, engage, and excel in the STEM disciplines. We will update you as the process gets closer to the acceptance date.
Mrs. Luisa DeLeon