Solihull launches initiative to reduce social media usage

After restricting mobile phone use at the start of the academic year, Solihull School is now empowering parents to say no to social media

The headmaster of one of the UK’s leading co-educational independent schools has launched a joint initiative with parents in a bid to stop ‘tweenage’ pupils accessing inappropriate social media content.

David EJJ Lloyd, Head at Solihull School, in the West Midlands, began the academic year by speaking out about the “very real” angst pupils suffer from the relatively new phenomenon of FOMO – ‘fear of missing out’, along with restricting the use of mobile phones during the school day.

Now, David has teamed up with parents to provide a united front against what he calls a “very modern syndrome driven by technology and instant communication”.

Since launching #ParentsDecide, a campaign to empower parents to say ‘no’ to their under-13 child accessing social media, Mr Lloyd said: “I am delighted the response from our parents’ body has been so hugely encouraging. We have also seen a significant drop in social media-related problems with our under-13 pupils but there is still much work to be done.

“We have, for example, been made aware of some of our younger pupils regularly playing online games with violent and sexualised content deemed inappropriate for children of less than 15 and 18 years of age,” said David. “We are, therefore, reaching out to help parents feel emboldened in dealing with issues which many felt were slipping beyond their control. By taking the stance we did, we did little more than give a voice to parents’ concerns, encouraging them to trust their instincts and feel less anxious about policing their children’s FOMO.”

“My colleagues and I are regularly made aware of the constant tensions parents experience between not wanting to be the only ones who say ‘the answer is no’ and acquiescing to their under 13-year-old child using social media platforms designed for older users,” continued David. “Our initiative is simply to provide a conduit for parents to feel they can say ‘no’ secure in the knowledge many others in our school community are also saying no for the right reasons – and not saying yes for the wrong reasons. By voluntarily signing up to #ParentsDecide, parents’ voices will become part of a collective – they will feel less alone when harangued by their pre-teen and more comfortable saying no.”

At the start of the 2017-18 academic year, Solihull School told pupils that, while they were allowed to take phones into school, they were not allowed to use them during the school day – apart from sixth form students.

 “Importantly, pupils have embraced the mobile phone changes at school, in many cases with relief,” said David.  “We can already see more face-to-face interaction as they get used to spending less time on their phones during the school day. They also feel less peer pressure to have the latest phone.”

The lack of mobile phone usage at Solihull supports the social media issues which the school is addressing. And it is not alone, earlier this year Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed his concerns about the impact of social media on the nation’s youngsters and warned social media firms they could be hit by new laws if they didn’t do more to protect children online.

In a letter to companies, including social media giants Facebook and Google, Mr Hunt accused them of “turning a blind eye” to their impact on children.

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