Do you have a problem with social media and smart devices in your school (e.g. bullying or sexting, or shaming, or privacy violation)? It seems that, these days, schools can’t ignore the hard truth that learners are overwhelmed with smart devices, social media and apps.
Parents and educators have a responsibility to keep informed about the potential risks and pitfalls. Diocesan School for Girls (DSG) in Grahamstown understood the need for digital skills training and brought in the MySociaLife program to help.
MySociaLife exploded onto the school scene in 2018, examining the physiological, emotional, mental and neurological influences of working on smart devices and in social media. Working as certified adopters of the world’s leading international digital citizenship framework, they have since signed a vast number of SA’s top independent schools, who highly rate their results.
The media now come to them as the #1 digital life skills trainers in the country and they are literally shaping the conversation with over 100 interviews and articles in the last quarter of last year. 8 modules of digital life skills training is offered to students (Grade 4 -11).
They also, separately, train teachers, parents and school counsellors too to ensure everyone is watchful and in the loop; giving them tools and tips to develop conscious and healthy media consumption, becoming more digitally aware and resilient. Their message is positive and constructive, and not fear-mongering.
We spoke to DSG to hear how their life skills program has impacted their school.
Q1) What made you, as a school, decide that DSG required digital life skills training?
A: All humans are facing a rapid evolution of the digital landscape and it is difficult to keep abreast of the developments, and more importantly the risks. DSG feels that it is our responsibility to fully educate our pupils about this evolving landscape, but acknowledge that we are ill-equipped to do so and therefore sort the advice of experts.
Q2) What challenges did the school have in terms of students being online?
A: We haven’t faced any major issues but common to many other schools, we have faced the following:
- Loss of sleep
- Abuse of social media
- Online bullying
- Use of social media for untoward behaviour and rule-breaking
Q3) From the feedback you received from the students, do you feel that the digital life skills program of 8 modules was thorough enough and why?
A: It was very thorough and comprehensive.
Q4) What impressed you most about the MySociaLife program?
A: The appeal of the MSL programme is multidimensional:
- It is long term, covering varying topics related to the digital landscape (as opposed to the lecture and dash approach of the short course programmes which generally show lower uptake values)
- There is an aspect of educating everyone about their own digital footprint and responsibility within the digital space
- The programme seeks to educate ‘responsible use’ acknowledging that we cannot limit use entirely
Q5) Do you feel that the girls’ online behaviour was influenced in a positive way, following each module of training?
A: Although difficult to measure, there is a sense that the girls have a better understanding of the way they engage with social media.
Q6) Would you recommend MySociaLife to other schools?
Q7) How did you find the presenter, Dean McCoubrey with the students?
A: The pupils and staff find Dean relatable and informed.
Q8)Do you feel that the modules are covering all relevant subjects (ie cyberbullying, critical thinking, privacy, digital identity & resilience, sexuality online, screen time/obsessive use, etc) to ensure that students are more digitally aware at the end of the program?
A: Yes and we like the continued evolution of the programme.
The MySociaLife digital skills training is a step in the right direction for schools. Evidently, Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown has gained valuable tools to help learners, parents and educators to deal with the physiological, mental and emotional pitfalls of smart devices, social media and apps. So much so, David Wright invited them to teach at his new school Kingswood, where he is now Principal.
And by the same token, Shelly Frayne, invited MySociaLife to St Cyprians this year too. That’s two direct endorsements from the same school directly upon finishing their one year program. Perhaps its the fact that they will meet you and audit what you might need in your school at no cost, or if you don’t believe in the Program after the first module, you can have your money back and don’t have to continue. That’s confidence!