Scott Bacon is the principal of Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, Kansas. On this episode of the podcast, Scott sits down with START’s Krista Boan to talk about the impact of screen time and technology on student life at Blue Valley. They discuss the pressures of social media, school policies on phone usage and access, and the ways that remote learning and ZOOM fatigue have forced changes in those policies in recent months. You’ll hear real life wisdom from someone who spends every day on the front lines of the struggle for kids’ health and attention against the constant allure of technology.
Screen Sanity is Executive Produced by Krista Boan and START
It is produced and edited by Mike Cosper and Narrativo
Krista Boan: [00:00:00] Hey everyone, welcome to the Screen Sanity podcast. I’m your host, Krista Boan, co-founder of START where we help families raise happy and healthy kids in a world that is increasingly digital. We’ve had hundreds of conversations with parents everywhere who that the number one battleground in their homes is screen time, and while we’ve learned that there is no easy button when it comes to parenting today’s kids, there’s also an unbelievable movement of parents who are stepping into the arena and fighting for their kids hearts.
Each episode, our guests will help us dive into some of the tensions families are facing and walk us through some of the conversations you’ll wanna have to prepare your kids for the road ahead. Welcome to Screen Sanity.
Hey friends, if you were to take a cross-section of the country and the professionals are carrying the weight of leadership for the next generation, you know, schools and educators have always been right at the heart and they’ve always had a huge slice of the pie. But of course, in the wake of this pandemic, that role has become acute and all consuming for educators. Our guest today, Scott Bacon is right in the thick of it. He is an educator of 35 years, he’s spent the past 15 serving as the principal of Blue Valley High School, a Blue Ribbon high school serving 1,500 students.
His plate is incredibly full and yet if you ask any student or staff or parent what issues are a priority to Mr. Bacon, they will tell you about his commitment in helping his students create learning environments that value digital health and balance. So, Scott, thank you so much for joining the Screen Sanity podcast today, we’re so glad you’re here.
Scott Bacon: [00:01:53] Yeah, it’s a pleasure, thank you.
Krista Boan: [00:01:56] Oh my gosh. Well, talk about a new frontier that you are navigating. You know, I heard someone describe teaching recently like wh- whitewater rafting with a blindfold on.
Scott Bacon: [00:02:07] [laughs].
Krista Boan: [00:02:07] [laughs]. All right-
Scott Bacon: [00:02:08] Oh, that- yeah, that’s probably a pretty good description.
Krista Boan: [00:02:11] Yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:02:11] Um-
Krista Boan: [00:02:12] Are you students-
Scott Bacon: [00:02:12] … you know, I-
Krista Boan: [00:02:13] … back in person this semester or virtual or a hybrid?
Scott Bacon: [00:02:16] Well, some of them. Uh, probably about 85% of our students are back in, in person. It’s a hybrid schedule, so, uh, half the alphabet comes two days in a row and then the other half of the alphabet comes the next two days in a row and it alternates back and forth like that throughout the course of, of a month.
We also have about probably a little less than maybe 10% of our students who have chosen a virtual option where they’re at home and they are doing school virtually and, uh, they don’t actually come to the building. And then we have a fair number of students who are doing both. They come for some of their classes and then they stay home for some of their other classes. So, for our teachers, it’s, it’s a multitasking times 10 because they’re, uh, working with two different groups of students during the course of the week. Many of our teachers, about 40 of our staff are also teaching virtual classes. So, uh, they have to manage that differently than they would their typical class.
So, a lot of things are different. It’s going fairly well but very different needless to say.
Krista Boan: [00:03:33] Oh my goodness. So much learning and, you know, just as a, as an educator background myself, I just feel like there’s nobody better to have at the helm of all the learning than educators themselves because they’re so naturally inclined to just keep trying new things and innovating and just keeping, you know, students at, at the front and center. It’s just amazing and we’re grateful.
Scott Bacon: [00:03:54] We’ve been forced to innovate much quicker than we anticipated.
Krista Boan: [00:03:58] Yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:03:58] We all wanted to, uh, be on the front porch of innovation but, uh, we’ve really had to press ourselves and push ourselves and, but we’ve got very talented staff and I’m proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish.
Krista Boan: [00:04:10] Yeah. Well, I’m, I’m really looking forward to digging into thoughts about ways we can support digital health, specifically during this new normal of virtual learning and we’ll get there, I promise. But I-
Scott Bacon: [00:04:23] [laughs].
Krista Boan: [00:04:23] … [laughs], I know that your interest in the digital health of your students did not just suddenly pop up when the pandemic hit but has actually been something that you’ve been thinking about deeply for at least a few years. So, could we for a moment maybe back up the road a, a few years and, and revisit the trends that you were noticing in your students even before the t- pandemic, what sparked your interest in the digital health of our kids?
Scott Bacon: [00:04:52] Well, I mean, this probably, the digital health issue probably started to raise its head, uh, it was probably about five or six years ago. As we monitor our students performance and, and social and emotional wellbeing pretty closely and we try to get out and talk to our kids a lot and give them a lot of opportunities to give us feedback. We monitor grades and student academic performance and attendance and discipline referrals and, and in looking at all of that data collectively, we were noticing some trends that over the course of months, semester and then a couple of years were not going in the direction that we were hopin’ they would go.
Um, one of those is we began to see a rise in the incidence of depression and in some cases suicidal ideation among our students. We were seeing a lot of this being posted on social media. We took a close look at student behaviour and we saw a little bit of a spike in bullying and harassment, uh, that was going on between students, largely originating online, not at school but, uh, after school s- hours online.
We saw a rising trend in missing assignment and assignment completion was not nearly as robust as it, it had been-
Krista Boan: [00:06:19] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Scott Bacon: [00:06:19] … and, uh, that was a growing trend amongst some of our, our students and so, as we started seeing these things collectively start to take an uptick, you know, we were working harder than ever on providing student interventions and, and meeting one on one with students and, and we’re like, okay, we’re workin’ harder maybe than we ever have-
Krista Boan: [00:06:42] Uh-huh.
Scott Bacon: [00:06:43] … and, and we’re seeing some escalations in these things, what is going on?
Krista Boan: [00:06:47] Uh-huh.
Scott Bacon: [00:06:48] And, uh, you know, we looked at a, a variety of different things, but one thing we kept coming back to was social media and our conversations with students, what we were learning is this surprising number of hours that students were engaged in social me- it was at that time that I felt like I need to dig into this, I need to find out what’s goin’ on.
So, I started personally researching the influence of social media on teenagers and not long after that we had one of our school resource officers give a presentation about the influence of social media on teenagers and that really persuaded me to dive in deep-
Krista Boan: [00:08:25] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Scott Bacon: [00:08:25] … and the more research I did, it was like, well, no wonder-
Krista Boan: [00:08:30] Uh-huh.
Scott Bacon: [00:08:30] … well, no wonder. I was reading study after study and consulting different authors and books and what I was learning about the influence of social media and its influence upon things like depression and the escalation in bullying and harassment and the distraction that it causes from students getting things done, it was like, holy cow, we need to figure this out, we need to do something about it, yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:08:55] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Scott Bacon: [00:08:55] It was at that time that I felt like I need to dig into this, I need to find out what’s goin’ on. So, I started personally researching the influence of social media on teenagers and not long after that we had one of our school resource officers give a presentation about the influence of social media on teenagers and that really persuaded me to dive in deep and-
Krista Boan: [00:08:55] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Scott Bacon: [00:08:55] … the more research I did, it was like, well, no wonder-
Krista Boan: [00:08:55] Uh-huh.
Scott Bacon: [00:08:55] … well, no wonder. I was ready study after study and consulting different authors and books and what I was learning about the influence of social media and its influence upon things like depression and the escalation in bullying and harassment and the distraction that it causes from students getting things done, it was like, holy cow, we need to figure this out, we need to do something about it, yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:08:55] And listening to you I’m reminded of just my own journey. I think none of us, teachers, parents, none of us expected or were prepared for the side effects and in a lot of ways as we started to kind of take inventory it felt like hindsight was a little bit 20/20, um-
Scott Bacon: [00:09:12] Sure.
Krista Boan: [00:09:12] … and yet, you know, once personal devices like smartphones and s- you know, with social media began to creep their way into every part of our public life including schools, it was incredibly hard to keep them from invading classrooms.
Scott Bacon: [00:09:27] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:09:27] So, of course, you know, and in my work, a lot of times we hear from some parents who say, “Oh my goodness, just get rid of phones during the day because, you know, that is where all of the, the rampant binge Netflix scene is happening and that’s where the cyber bullying happening and that’s where the pornography is happening.” But meanwhile, in my work I also get to hear from the middle and high school teachers who are saying, “Oh my gosh, my whole job has be- become mitigating problems that were stirred up on personal devices outside of school-
Scott Bacon: [00:09:57] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:09:58] … you know, as well as honestly the disruption of parents texting their children throughout the day and expecting them to be immediately available at all times.” And so, whether you’re a parent or an educator, raising healthy kids is difficult if you are swimming upstream against a, you know, against a cultural tsunami. No parent wants to be the only one asking kids to put away their phones at a sleepover and no teacher wants to be the only one telling kids to put their phones away during close [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:10:32] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:10:32] And it’s even harder if you don’t have the support of your building or your district administrators or there’s pressure to even put kids on those, and so at START, one of our passions is just when it comes to helping our kids understand and pursue digital health that, that all the adults in the community have to get on the same page and I really feel like that’s exactly what you started with, your community.
I’d love for you to walk us through the journey of what it looked like to engage your staff and your parents and, and why you approached it as a whole community because a lot of times we hear in our work, you know, “Why can’t you just make a quick policy change or a rule change when it comes to, you know, getting of rid of the stuff that we, that we’re seeing this side effects with?”
Scott Bacon: [00:11:19] Well, I think, you know, again this, this realization started to occur about four or five years ago and then as we researched this, um, you know, we’ve got a very sharp clientele who we work with in our community and, and I think when we start considering a policy cha- change, there needs to be a compelling reason as to why.
Krista Boan: [00:11:40] Yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:11:41] And so, I felt like okay, this cannot be based on opinion, this needs to be based on fact and it needs to be based on research. So-
Krista Boan: [00:11:50] Mm.
Scott Bacon: [00:11:51] … uh, we dug pretty deep and, and compiled some research and, you know, first of all, I had to educate myself because I wasn’t in the know, uh, for sure, uh, at the time that I started having concerns about this, so I dug in pretty deep, I read a couple different books. Um, there was a book, uh, called iGen and it’s Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy And Completely Unprepared For Adulthood.
Krista Boan: [00:12:19] Mm.
Scott Bacon: [00:12:19] That may be the longest title of a book ever, but-
Krista Boan: [00:12:22] [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:12:22] … um, it’s written by, uh, Jean Twenge who’s professor of psychology at San Diego State University. Um, that book just was a wealth of information for me, followed that up with another book, Nicholas, uh, Kardaras, Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids and How to Break the Trance. Both these books were a wealth of information for and really informed me through research studies and, and a lot of different primary resources that, that indicated what we were dealing with.
So, I felt like, okay, first of all, I need to educate myself, then secondly I need to educate our staff and I need to share this information with our staff so that if we are going to consider some policy changes or different protocols in our building they understand why. We also felt like we needed to reach out to our parent community and share that information with them as well. So, we did that through our PTO and we had a relatively new organization that, uh, was in the making as well, our father’s club. And so through, through those two organizations as well as my psych-based leadership team, we tried to inform our parental community of some of the research that, that, that we were seeing and s- and the statistics that were rather alarming.
The final group that we needed to inform was our students.
Krista Boan: [00:13:48] Mm.
Scott Bacon: [00:13:48] And it was interesting because I had conversations with a lot of students and, and one of the research data points that I came across is that the typical teenager was spending about seven and a half hours a day interacting with social media through their cellphones. Well, I sat down and had that conversation with many of my students and they were not surprised by that. Their response to me, many of ’em was, “Well, yeah, that’s about right,” and I was shocked [laughs].
So, we had a, a lot of different audiences that we needed to inform before we started enacting any policy changes and, and we tried to work our way through each of those and once we had done so and once we put some research and statistics out in front of folks, there was very little argument as to whether or not we needed to intervene in some way, shape or form. I think it was unrealistic for us to say, “Okay, you can’t bring your cellphone to school anymore.”
I did research some schools, uh, around the country that did that. They said the first year it was a nightmare [laughs]-
Krista Boan: [00:14:55] [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:14:55] … but then it got better after that. But I did read a research study for the University of Texas that indicated that the impact of banning cellphones in schools would amount to an additional hour a week, hour a week of school-
Krista Boan: [00:15:09] Wow.
Scott Bacon: [00:15:09] … which would be the equivalent to an additional week of school over a year and the greatest influence and benefit it would have would be for those students who struggle academically. So, that was the impetus that we needed to go forward and try some things. And so we started small baby steps, but we implemented some policies and procedures that we felt like, uh, would help make a difference and, and we started instigating those about two years ago and then last fall we continued some of those initiatives.
And then COVID hit and so we weren’t able to continue those initiatives as we had expected. Uh, so it was a little more difficult to determine the outcome of those initiatives, but we’ve got some preliminary data that, that helped indicate that it was making a difference.
Krista Boan: [00:15:59] Yeah, I, la- last time you and I were able to connect you shared some fun just, it made me giggle, some anecdotal data [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:16:07] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:16:07] ‘Cause I think I said, “Well, what d- what do the students think?” [laughs]. And I think you shared with me that, “Oh gosh, they hate it.” [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:16:29] [crosstalk 00:16:17]-
Krista Boan: [00:16:29] [crosstalk 00:16:17] at first.
Scott Bacon: [00:16:29] Yeah, and, you know, I, I sat down with students after we implemented, uh, basically we bought cellphone holders for all of our classrooms. In second semester our teachers agreed that they would ask their students to put them, their cell phones in cellphone holders during the class period so that they wouldn’t have access to ’em. I had several students when I sat down in visit with them, I said, “How- How’s it going?” And they said, “Well, we don’t like it but I’m not distracted-
Krista Boan: [00:16:47] Mm.
Scott Bacon: [00:16:48] … and it’s a lot easier to focus in class. So, no, I don’t like it, but it is helping me in class.” And I heard that over and over and over again.
Krista Boan: [00:16:58] Yeah. I, I have a friend who directs a summer camp and, you know, I think sometimes as parents, we think, and maybe as educators but I’m, guess I’m speaking from a parent, we think, oh my gosh, my kid is just gonna, he’s gonna hate this, but this friend who directs the summer camp said, “You know, you’d be surprised how quick kids are to recognize the benefit of putting a boundary on it,” and it sounds like that you saw a little bit of that data before COVID hit.
Scott Bacon: [00:17:30] Exactly. And we, I had some parents contact me and share with me that their, after going through this a couple of weeks and realizing that they could do it, that they had made a personal decision on the home front to move away from their cellphone.
Krista Boan: [00:17:46] Wow.
Scott Bacon: [00:17:46] And they had put limitations on their selves as to when they would utilize their cellphone, and in some cases, there were students who were connected to Instagram or Snapchat who had made a decision, a personal decision that they weren’t going to engage with those social platforms anymore because they didn’t feel like it was in their best interest and I had a number of parents share that with me during the time that we had instigated this.
Krista Boan: [00:18:12] Wow. I think it’s so powerful the power of incremental change and baby steps, certainly that sounds like the approach that you took was, you know, just trying something and seeing how it goes, and that gives you courage to do the next thing and we’re always talking with our parents about just trying something small. That, you know, really when it comes to improving our digital health it doesn’t have to be, you know, turning the entire school upside down overnight-
Scott Bacon: [00:18:36] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:18:36] … or turning your house over, you know, upside down overnight. So, I just celebrate that and just, just so encouraged by that model of leadership, so thank you. You know, obviously a lot has shifted [laughs]-
Scott Bacon: [00:18:50] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:18:51] … as, as we’ve teed up here, your students are back in school on a hybrid schedule and so I’m just curious, how, how’s the phone-free classroom shifted or stuck?
Scott Bacon: [00:19:02] Well, you know, couple of observations there. During this whole transition, we transitioned to a one to one school, before then we were BYOD, bring your own device.
Krista Boan: [00:19:13] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Scott Bacon: [00:19:13] Um, when it was bring your own device, uh, our teachers were very creative and tried to engage students in utilizing their cellphone as an educational tool-
Krista Boan: [00:19:24] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Scott Bacon: [00:19:26] … and many different that very successfully, but it was also difficult during that time to make sure that students weren’t texting or interacting with Snapchat or YouTube while they were in class.
Krista Boan: [00:19:35] Right.
Scott Bacon: [00:19:36] So, when we transitioned to one to one with, where students had computers, they didn’t need their phones-
Krista Boan: [00:19:41] Yep.
Scott Bacon: [00:19:42] … to interact ed- educationally, and so that’s when we put into play the cellphone holders and, and those sort of things and, and saw a significant difference in a short time that we were able to do that. I’ve been in about 20 classrooms in the last two days on purpose, uh, in preparation for this, uh, conversation and out of those 20 classrooms, I saw one student interacting with a cellphone.
Krista Boan: [00:20:09] Wow.
Scott Bacon: [00:20:10] Now, I can’t say that that would be the case every day-
Krista Boan: [00:20:14] Right.
Scott Bacon: [00:20:14] … in every walkthrough that I would exercise, but I would say that’s generally been true over the course of this month since we’ve had students back. As the students were interacting, they were interacting educationally on their MacBook computers. It was not their cellphones.
Krista Boan: [00:20:33] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Scott Bacon: [00:20:35] Now, that’s always the case a- and I did see a student, uh, when I was in a classroom that instead of doing what they should have been doing they were interacting on their cellphone. So, that does happen. But I would say it, it, it happens much less than it used to.
Krista Boan: [00:20:51] Yeah, and that’s the combination, just to recap, of just moving the shift to one to one i- as well-
Scott Bacon: [00:20:57] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:20:57] … as just, you know, that baby step and that momentum possibly that was started by just getting everybody’s buy-in at the beginning. I, it occurs to me, you know, as a, I have one who, I have an eight grader who’s hybrid currently, really, if you’re educating from home right now, if you’re doing distanced learning, you kind of get to choose if you’re a BYOD or if you’re a one to one, don’t you?
Scott Bacon: [00:21:20] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:21:20] Because [laughs]-
Scott Bacon: [00:21:22] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:21:22] … right now-
Scott Bacon: [00:21:22] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:21:22] … if I set her up with her Chromebook, um, which is a school issued device and I also allow her to have her Snapchat or ho- her Instagram open right next to her studies, you know, which one is she probably going to choose, especially if there’s not a teacher in the room who can-
Scott Bacon: [00:21:40] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:21:40] … see her? And so, I think, you know, just, just taking what you’ve created, and when I say you I, I acknowledge it’s an entire community effort, it’s, it’s everybody at your school including your students, and using that as inspiration to think about parents who are, who are trying to do the virtual learning thing at home, how can we imitate this idea that really going one to one, it can be healthy, especially it reduces distraction, it can help minimize anxiety and just kind of create more of a calm learning environment for our students. So, I think that’s the really super helpful thing to replicate.
Scott Bacon: [00:22:20] I would agree with you and, and I would, uh, share one more caveat to the observation that I just had is because of the COVID thing, we’re not currently using, uh, cellphone holders because we don’t want students to congregate-
Krista Boan: [00:22:37] Sure.
Scott Bacon: [00:22:37] … um, at the cellphone holder when they come in from, into class or when they leave class.
Krista Boan: [00:22:42] Sure, yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:22:43] So, really had to, you know, we’ve had to have a heart to heart with our students and say, “Hey, this is the expectation and, you know, we’re gonna expect that you comply with this,” and I think most of our students have been very compliant. I, I think part of it might be that they learned last year they could live without their cellphone for an hour [laughs].
Krista Boan: [00:23:02] Yeah [laughs], they probably-
Scott Bacon: [00:23:03] Yeah, so-
Krista Boan: [00:23:03] … look forward to the break, don’t they?
Scott Bacon: [00:23:06] Yeah, yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:23:06] And, and if, if I’m being honest, just, you know, possibly a break from having to be online for their parents, right? Like, “Hey, mom and dad-
Scott Bacon: [00:23:16] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:23:16] … I got a free pass-
Scott Bacon: [00:23:17] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:23:17] … I’m not gonna text you back in the next hour.” That kind of feels nice for a little bit.
Scott Bacon: [00:23:21] Sure.
Krista Boan: [00:23:21] Um, yeah. So, we know that the current challenges for kid’s screen time are massive, but, you know, there might be opportunities like this one that, that [laughs] maybe they’re Zoom fatigued out and virtual learning fatigued out and that-
Scott Bacon: [00:23:38] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:23:38] … they might have stepped in, you know, through the past six months of being online all the time into something healthier. What other opportunities come to mind in amidst this crisis, amidst this shift that we could really lean into and, and move forward with as healthier norms? Do you have thoughts?
Scott Bacon: [00:24:00] Well, I’ve got some parents that have shared things with me that works on their home front and, um, you know, and I’ve shared these with other parents as well but I think, uh, you know, establishing some parameters on the home front, uh, can help with the screen time issue e- especially with cell phone. I, I know two things that really resonate with me, I’m a parent too and, you know, I’ve lived through this trying to manage cellphones with my kids as well and, and, uh, what I have been, uh, really intrigued by are just a couple of simple ground rules that parents have set up and, and one that I thought was just great is, is there was a designated time at which time all cellphones in the household go in the chargers and the chargers are in the kitchen.
Krista Boan: [00:24:49] Wow, yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:24:51] And after that point time, um, cellphones are not interacted with in the household and will not be until the next morning. Um, you know, I heard or I read of a statistic where 70% of teenagers who have a cellphone take their cellphone to bed with them. Well-
Krista Boan: [00:25:13] Wow.
Scott Bacon: [00:25:13] … guess what their probably doin’, not sleepin’.
Krista Boan: [00:25:16] Studying?
Scott Bacon: [00:25:17] Uh, yeah-
Krista Boan: [00:25:17] [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:25:17] … [crosstalk 00:25:19]. Uh, I think we all know that that’s probably not case either but-
Krista Boan: [00:25:24] [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:25:25] … um, I thought that was a great idea and, and I’ve had several parents share that that they set up parameters, that the charging station is in the kitchen and before everybody retires for the evening, that cellphone goes in the charger and that’s where it stays until the next morning. And that’s just a little idea that I, was shared with me and I shared it with other parents and, and I’ve had a lot of parents comment on that and about the effectiveness of, of that. So, that’s just one simple little idea that, uh, has worked for many.
Um, you know, I think there’s several tools out there. I know a year ago we shared a, a tool, it’s called ourpact.com which I think is a very inexpensive management tool that ena- enables parents to restrict and enables screen time on cellphones. There’s probably several of those out there now.
Krista Boan: [00:26:20] Yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:26:21] Um, I know we as a school investigated an app and I think maybe K-State did this at one time, but there’s an app that tabulates the minutes during the school day that a student’s cellphone is turned off.
Krista Boan: [00:26:33] Oh, yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:26:34] And the minutes are converted to points that can-
Krista Boan: [00:26:37] Yes.
Scott Bacon: [00:26:37] … be redeemed at local food vendors and merchants-
Krista Boan: [00:26:39] Gosh.
Scott Bacon: [00:26:39] … and, um, you know, I know several colleges have tapped into that and that was something that we were looking at and then COVID came along and kind of redirected us a little bit. But I think there’s a lot of creative ways and ideas to help mitigate the amount of screen time and cellphone usage that students or even adults for that matter are engaged in.
Krista Boan: [00:27:05] Yeah, I love that. And, you know, what, what you’re doing is you’re really just, and I use this analogy a lot but, you know, you are putting your kids in the gym and you are letting them just get muscle reps, right? You are putting weight in their hands. When they learn to put their device to bed every night and they do it as a habit, suddenly there are adults that maybe are still tempted to stay up and scroll through social media when they’re ready to go to bed-
Scott Bacon: [00:27:30] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:27:30] … but also have the ability to say, “You know what, my sleep is valuable, it’s worth it to put it down right now.”
Scott Bacon: [00:27:37] Absolutely.
Krista Boan: [00:27:37] And so maybe they’re not perfect, but they have that muscle memory to kind of rely on to help inform, you know-
Scott Bacon: [00:27:43] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:27:43] … healthier life choices. Well, hey, each episode we do something a little akin to a Dear Abby where we share with you a question that we’ve heard from a listener and, um, just ask you to model, model what a conversation would look like, um, in this situation. So, today’s reader reaches out and she says, “I’m reaching out because I’m noticing that my ninth grade son is in a tricky situation in one of his classes and I am not sure how to help. His teacher has started communicating assignments and critical information over Instagram and we have not allowed our son to have social media yet, and of course, I don’t want my kid to feel left our to not get the information that he needs, but I strongly feel that he is not ready for the world of social media and I know that teachers have a lot going on right now and I also know that our family’s not the norm, but how can I help the teacher understand what pressure this places on our family without further embarrassing my child?”
Scott, what are your thoughts about helping parents approach teachers, what do these conversations look like?
Scott Bacon: [00:28:56] Well, I, I, you know, I think, I want to encourage any parent who’s in that situation to reach out their child teacher and or, uh, the administrators in the building. Uh, personally I would, you know, I would be uncomfortable with that for my own child and as a principal, I don’t feel like that’s the best way for us to communicate with, with students and I know that it puts some students at a disadvantage because many of our households may have regulations against social media platforms as am communicative tool.
So, I would certainly encourage a, a parent just to share their concern and, and be honest, “Hey, in our household,” and I’ve have conversations [laughs] with parents, uh, along that line, I would encourage them to just be honest and say, “Hey, you know what, in our household we don’t provide access to those social media platforms for our child.” But I would just encourage, uh, parents to, uh, communicate with the teacher, communicate with the administrators in their building if there’s a concern about that ’cause we wanna work through this together and there’s not a need to communicate through that vehicle.
Uh, we can communicate through other vehicles and I fully realize, and I think many of our teachers would realize that they may be putting some students at a dis- disadvantage or in a tough spot if that’s the primary means of, of communication. And I know there’s other apps out there like Remind 101 and, and, and things like that. Uh, same situation, if a parent or a child is being asked to use a communication vehicle that they’re not comfortable with, there are alternatives and we’re open to those, and, and I think just having that conversation is the right thing to do.
Krista Boan: [00:30:45] Yeah. I think, you know, as a parent it can be so tempting to quickly just assume or blame that teacher who’s having that behaviour, but it’s just so helpful for me to always just try to step into their shoes and realize that, you know, teachers are good people [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:31:02] Sure.
Krista Boan: [00:31:03] They’re out there, they’re, they’re probably communicating on Instagram because that is where they know that they’re able to reach their kids and, and-
Scott Bacon: [00:31:11] Exactly.
Krista Boan: [00:31:11] … it never-
Scott Bacon: [00:31:11] Yeah, they’re-.
Krista Boan: [00:31:12] … comes from a place of, of ill will, but it usually comes-
Scott Bacon: [00:31:16] Right.
Krista Boan: [00:31:16] … from a place of just not having had enough time to think through other options.
Scott Bacon: [00:31:22] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:31:22] Yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:31:23] Now, that’s a real prob- a real problem for some and a real issue for some and I would just encourage folks to be transparent and honest and I, I know our teachers will work with a parent or a student as will I in working through that situation if it exists.
Krista Boan: [00:31:40] Awesome. Well, hey, Scott, thanks so much. This has been so challenging both for me as I think through my parenting decisions, but also just, just a great example of, and I just wanna thank you for just your remarkable leadership in this area. You might not be familiar with the landscape, but I know that there are so many parents and fellow administrators out there listening who, who are longing for this step towards digital health and who will be inspired by the way that you’ve called out the challenges, that you’ve educated, that you’ve taken baby steps and that you’ve just stepped into the arena and let your voice and engaged your community in something that honestly as a mom would be a dream to see replicated across the nation, ’cause our kids deserve it.
Our hope and challenge at START is to continue to provide resources for parents and schools s- to help us survive the pressures we’re all experiencing and hopefully emerge from this pressure cooker with a common vision and, um, a healthier balance and, like I said, those strong muscles to help our kids grow into adults who know how to maximize the gift of technology, right-
Scott Bacon: [00:32:58] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:32:58] … ’cause there’s so many.
Scott Bacon: [00:33:00] Yeah, and Krista, I appreciate the work that you and the START organization are doing. I think, you know, as a parent myself, um, you know, parents are busy people-
Krista Boan: [00:33:10] Yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:33:10] … and, um, it’s so valuable when you have an organization or a group of people like yourself and others who come along and say, “Hey, you know what, we’ve done the groundwork on this. We’ve done the research on this. Here’s, here’s some things that, uh, you should know and here’s some idea and strategies on how to deal with some of the things that you now know.”
You know, I view it as a, a team effort. Um-
Krista Boan: [00:33:37] Absolutely.
Scott Bacon: [00:33:38] … you know, it- it’s parents and educators and, and students all working together to find the best balance and the most productive balance of the tools that we have at our disposal.
Krista Boan: [00:33:52] Absolutely. I love it. We’re grateful. Can we close out with a quick rapid fire five questions just for fun? [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:34:01] Absolutely.
Krista Boan: [00:34:02] Awesome. Okay, so the first question is, your favorite old school technology to talk about, you know, the kinds you have to explain to your kids because it’s obsolete.
Scott Bacon: [00:34:09] Uh, it would be the typewriter where you had the carriage arm that you had to reset the carriage after each line you typed.
Krista Boan: [00:34:16] Yes, and that was prior to, like-
Scott Bacon: [00:34:18] [laughs].
Krista Boan: [00:34:18] … the electronic one where it would-
Scott Bacon: [00:34:19] Yeah.
Krista Boan: [00:34:19] … automatically re- yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:34:21] Yes, yes.
Krista Boan: [00:34:21] Yeah, cool. Fill in the blank, being a teenager in 2020 is …
Scott Bacon: [00:34:27] Oh, gosh. Uh, the first thing that comes to mind is complicated.
Krista Boan: [00:34:31] Oh, such a good word, such a good word. How about your favorite app?
Scott Bacon: [00:34:37] You know, I’m not an app guy, uh, I t- I try to steer clear of those as much as I can. Uh, so, but I would have to say, you know, I’m not a Twitter, I don’t tweet-
Krista Boan: [00:34:50] [laughs].
Scott Bacon: [00:34:50] … but I do follow-
Krista Boan: [00:34:51] Yeah.
Scott Bacon: [00:34:51] … and I follow a lot of educators, so I’d have to say that’s probably the one that I use most often.
Krista Boan: [00:34:56] Yep, yep, so good. Favorite trick you use to keep your tech in check.
Scott Bacon: [00:35:02] I’ve made some personal decisions for myself and may be kind of strange, but I, I don’t do Facebook because it’s so time consuming.
Krista Boan: [00:35:10] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Scott Bacon: [00:35:10] Um, so I’ve made the personal choice not to do that. That doesn’t mean that I’m not using technology as a research tool, because I do. Um-
Krista Boan: [00:35:20] I love it.
Scott Bacon: [00:35:20] … I just try not to get lost in it socially.
Krista Boan: [00:35:24] Yeah, absolutely. Those notifications are hard to resist. So, I think that’s great. All right, last one, the internet breaks down for 24 hours, what are you gonna do to unplug?
Scott Bacon: [00:35:36] Well, one of two things. If it’s nice out, I’m goin’ fishin’. If it’s not, I’ll read a book.
Krista Boan: [00:35:42] So good.
Scott Bacon: [00:35:43] [laughs].
Krista Boan: [00:35:43] Awesome. Thanks so much, Scott.
Scott Bacon: [00:35:44] All right, thank you.
Krista Boan: [00:35:48] Oh, man, you guys, wasn’t that cool? Scott Bacon is such a treasure and I am just so glad that I got to share him with you today. I wanted to close today’s episode by just taking a moment to talk to those, uh, parents or teachers, administrators out there who are maybe discouraged because you’re in a situation where you see that your school is maybe not prioritizing digital health as high as you wish that they would, and I just wanna say to you that we get it. We’ve been there, it’s hard and maybe leave you with just a couple of encouraging tips as you start conversations in your community about what it would look like to take steps to become more healthy and balanced as a school.
Um, the first thing I would just say is that it can be so easy when you get into situations, um, like the one we shared about where the teacher was communicating on Instagram [laughs] to just point fingers and blame and only see the bad things that are happening in our public schools. But I would just encourage you that if you can, to just shift the way that you think about teacher and educators in schools from being an antagonist to just being an ally. And I want you to know that something that we have learned is that in schools, and especially in public schools, that small changes are big changes. So, anytime you see a school or a leader taking a step to make things healthier and better, cheer them on. Celebrate those, those little changes because they are actually really, really big. Lead with kindness, lead with trust, um, and really just keep being a champion in your community.
And hey, I just wanna encourage you that that’s why START’s here. We have some awesome resources that are specifically designed to be a resource for both schools and parents and community leaders who are wanting to start a conversation about digital health. So, whether it’s sharing this podcast with your school principal or downloading one of our parent guides from our website and sharing it with other friends or, you know, other parents on your kids baseball team to start a conversation, or by bringing our Screen Sanity program to your PTO, it is specifically designed with parent communities in mind and can really help bring about those small steps that lead to big changes, um, for your school.
So, you can learn more about those at our website www.westartnow.org, or you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn more about upcoming opportunities. And until next time, stay in the fight, keep leaning in on difficult conversations, keeping believing the best in each other, keep showing your kids that the world is really, really big, but their screens are small. Keep lookin’ up.