Common Sense Media Tech Forum 10/12/17

For our third consecutive year, MCDS hosted a panel of sixteen 8th graders from participating Marin schools, who answered questions about their digital lives in front of a parent audience. Notes are below–some thoughtful, balanced answers that we hope are indicative of the work we’re doing with students around digital citizenship.

Most notes are written from the students’ point of view. We hope they provide valuable insights as you support your child’s relationship with digital technology.

  • If you haven’t already, check out Common Sense Media’s recent gender equity initiative research
  • My phone usually charges in kitchen; sometimes I sleep with it in my room. My parents use KidsLox so it limits me to 90 minutes per day on my phone, and it shuts off apps at 8pm.
  • I got my phone in 6th grade when I made honor roll. Most of my peers got their phones when we were in 5th grade, so I was excited when I got mine in 6th.
  • Some tech rules for my family: not allowed to be on phone in someone else’s car; have to charge my phone in my dad’s office… I wasn’t allowed on Instagram at first, but eventually my parents let me join. I had to prove I was responsible, and I had to write out a lot of ideas about how to use it responsibly before I was allowed to start my account.
  • I got my phone in 5th grade. My family’s rules are no social media, and no sleeping with my phone in my room.
  • We know that sleep helps connect the prefrontal cortex to the emotional center of the brain, which helps us make better decisions.
  • After being on my phone for a while, I’d rather go outside and kick a soccer ball or something than keep playing on my phone.
  • Sometimes I find myself going down a rabbit hole on social media, and I try to be aware of that so I can pull myself back. Usually it’s Instagram or Snapchat. They have “explore” features that are pretty mindless and kind of pointless, but they definitely suck you in.
  • Moment” or similar tools can help you keep track of how long you spend on your phone, app-by-app…
  • I have Twitter on my phone, just to look at controversial tweets like Donald Trump’s. I don’t really use it for much besides that.
  • I don’t have a phone, and I don’t really have that “FOMO” feeling. Right now I’m on my computer a bit more in my free time, because I’m injured and I can’t play sports. Usually I’m out mountain biking or something.
  • Instagram and Snapchat are what most of us use. Twitter is for 20- and 30-somethings who are trying to be hip. Facebook’s kind of… way out there.
  • I have blocked one person on Snapchat. I blocked them because they sent me something every day, even though we didn’t have a streak going. I blocked them because it was getting annoying, not because I don’t like them or was trying to hurt them.
  • Ghosting (making a plan to meet up with someone and then not showing up) is really mean…I’ve never done that. When someone is being mean or inappropriate, that’s when I block them.
  • I don’t really believe in the blocking thing for people I know. I would assume someone didn’t like me if they blocked me. Instead, I like to use the “do not disturb” function on my phone when I want to block content. And yeah, I also block people who I don’t actually know if they try to follow me.
  • I only get notifications for texts within 10 minutes. I don’t have notifications turned on for stuff like Snapchat and Instagram.
  • In 7th grade, I looked at my phone a lot when I was doing HW. It really didn’t help me–it made it so my homework would take way longer. Now I turn my phone on silent when I’m doing my HW.
  • I try not to use my phone when I do my HW, because it slows me down and distracts me. Sometimes I need to use my phone during homework, when I need to ask a friend a question about the work.
  • My phone is mainly for emergencies. I have an iPhone and honestly I don’t think it’s that cool.
  • I got my phone around 6th grade, and now I sometimes wish I didn’t have my phone a little bit. Now, even if I know I won’t need it, I always bring my phone with me. And I’ve noticed my younger sister, who’s now in 6th grade, is always on her phone with group texts and stuff. It has changed her a little bit.
  • I always have my phone on me, just in case I need to use it. Most of the time, I’m using it for music. I try not to use it too much.
  • Most of my friends are on social media, or they play video games all the time. They also talk about it all the time, when they’re not doing it. It’s sometimes a little bit too much.
  • Most of my friends aren’t on social media, but they do play video games. A lot of them play when they get home, before they do their homework. Some of them are addicted–it’s not good.
  • For soccer carpool, one of my friends is always on her phone. She won’t talk, and she won’t listen. We’ll ask her a question, and she won’t answer… I actually like it when whoever’s driving calls her out on it.
  • There should be places in your house (and your car!) that are device-free zones. Think about designating rooms that are regularly used for family time, as device-free zones. Meal times are great for this as well.
  • It doesn’t happen too much where I’ve posted something of someone they didn’t like, or vice versa.
  • Subtweeting: where you post something about someone without using their name, but everyone knows what/who you’re talking about. Even if you don’t know at first who/what someone is talking about, it raises curiosity and stimulates popularity when someone does this. Also you’re saying something behind a screen and you think it’s ok, but the person you’re talking about could be really hurt by your subtweet. If you have a problem with someone, it’s better to say something to them in person.
  • Anonymous apps like KiwiSarahah, and tbh: went around our school for a little while, but not really as popular anymore. Anonymous apps are really tricky–they mean you run a greater risk of having your feelings hurt.
  • I think it’s ok for adults to tell me it’s time to put the phone down. I try to monitor myself, and I think I’m pretty good about it, but sometimes I need reminders. I see some of my friends who I wish their parents would step in more and tell their kids to get off their phones.
  • My twin sneaks his phone a lot. He gets addicted to technology more than I do. I’ve found that if you’re more responsible, you get more privileges.
  • A lot of people say mean things online because they feel more immune to responses from other kids or parents. Not everyone knows who you are, and even if they do know who you are, some people have an online image that is different from what they’re like in person.
  • I know someone who has committed suicide, so I don’t take that as a joke.
  • Sometimes kids are mean in the comments they post.
  • It can be hard to unplug, because a lot of my schoolwork is on the computer. Sometimes I wish I could unplug more and focus more on my friendships, like having conversations on the bus. It’s also super-frustrating when my device dies or goes out of wifi range and I have lots of work to do.
  • I use my phone sometimes to FaceTime friends when I need help with homework. Like, I’ll figure something out with a friend if we were both confused in class, or I’ll ask a friend to catch me up if I missed class…
  • I prefer talking face-to-face over texting. That’s especially true when I’m trying to resolve a disagreement with a friend. Texting almost never works for that, but FaceTime does.
  • It’s nice to hang out on play dates and sleepovers without phones.
  • You can’t always convey sarcasm via text.
  • “I’ve got your cyber-back” is something some kids are saying to each other these days, particularly girls-to-girls. It’s good to be an “upstander” online, especially when you see a friend in need.
  • Sometimes I get into heated exchanges with friends online. It wasn’t a good feeling. But I recently realized that I can put the phone down whenever I want, and not respond for any amount of time I like…it’s a liberating feeling.
  • Sometimes adults forget that technology can bring people closer together.
  • Sometimes I think adults exaggerate and think I’m on my phone way more than I am.
  • I’m not that mad when my parents tell me to get off the phone. I do get upset when I do my homework for a long time (but my parents don’t see/know/acknowledge that), and then I get on my phone for a couple minutes and they say “Get off your phone; go do your homework.”
  • Sometimes I get frustrated when my parents tell me to get off my phone, because I’m in the middle of something (like making plans) that I need a couple minutes to finish… but generally I’m actually kind of glad/relieved when my parents tell me to get off my phone.
  • For a while, I got a little too obsessed with my phone. My parents got a tool that shut off the wifi every night, and that helped me regroup and manage my tech habits better.
  • Even though I don’t have a phone, I still want one. I play outside a lot, and I like to read, but I think I would still do those things with a phone.
  • I think the longer you can wait to get a phone, the better it is. There does come a point where kids’ social lives are impacted by not having a phone. That point comes at different times for different kids. The right time to get a phone really just depends on the kid.
  • I got Instagram on my iPad in 5th grade, but I didn’t get my own phone till 7th grade. I liked doing it that way because when I got my phone, I already had practice with Instagram. I wasn’t compulsively checking it all the time just because I happened to have my phone with me all the time.

6th Grade Data re: mobile devices and tech challenges

As you may recall, 6th grade Tech/SEL content focuses on pros and cons of having/not having a mobile device. On September 27, we continued that conversation by polling two groups of MCDS 6th graders, each group containing 21 students. The results are presented in the PDF below.

Headlines include:

  • Overall, approximately 38% report already having their own smart phones with data plans; 38% report already having a device like a simple flip-phone or iPod touch; and 26% report not yet having a mobile device. (See first two pie graphs.)
  • There seems to be a healthy attitude among students toward technology. Both groups show a standard bell curve for balanced a balanced relationship with technology. (See bar graphs.)
  • Students widely vary in terms of what they see as the trickiest thing about technology for themselves. We do, however, see a distinct trend in both groups that the trickiest thing for 6th graders in general is “Digital drama.” Furthermore, 6th graders in both groups distinctly noted that the trickiest thing about tech for the adults in their lives is “How much time it takes up, that you should be spending on other things.”

Please review the data carefully and as always let us know if you have any questions. We hope to see many of you at the Common Sense Media teen panel this thursday, October 12, at 8:30am in MP1.

For the full-res version, click here: 6th Grade Data 20170927

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7th Grade SEL summary – Sept 15

The focus for the tech portion of 7th grade SEL shifts from cell phones to the broader, more abstract concept of the media. Like in our first 6th grade session, we started with the questions “What makes technology tricky?” and  “What makes it different from other things in our lives?” We also looked at some of the features of CW’s GoGuardian dashboard:

  • top websites visited by the whole school, or a particular grade
  • most flagged students (names redacted when displayed during class)
  • a full timeline of any student’s full web history
  • top videos
  • a full list of any student’s google searches or videos watch
  • a graphical view of how much time a student spends editing docs vs visiting specific websites vs searching the web vs watching YouTube vs flagged activity


We talked about how you will be invited to reflect on your own web usage trends at different points throughout the year, and what you can do in the meantime if you have questions or would like to request your own data. We also talked about the huge amount of misinformation and/or upsetting content available on the web, and the importance of identifying a trusted adult as your main resource for questions on growing up, friendships, drugs, alcohol, sex, and so forth. You guys are the first group of adolescents to go through this time in your life and also have so much access to digital technology. That’s a huge responsibility– we all need to take care to address that, to help you grow into your very best self.

Next week you’ll have an SEL session with Darlene. The week after that (Friday, September 29), we’ll be back together as a whole group of 40 students in the PA. You will be asked to jot notes and sketches that help explain your own relationship with technology and your “digital life” (or lack thereof). To help you prepare for the 9/29 session, be thinking about some of the following questions:

  • What’s on your Spotify playlist? What popular playlists do you like to follow? (If you don’t use Spotify, talk about your relationship with music, digital or not.)
  • Do you understand all the lyrics/meanings behind the songs you listen to?
  • Do you want to be famous? (If so, famous for what?)
  • Should there be different tech rules for adults vs kids?
  • Who are your favorite YouTube stars right now?
  • What’s the latest thing you’ve heard about FAKE NEWS?
  • Do you feel pressure to look or act a certain way because of what you see online?
  • Which 3 celebrities grate on your nerves the most and why?
  • Seen anything funny on the web lately?
  • Do you like to document your life? Do you WANT a record of your life?
  • Who are your role models that you see in the media?
  • What’s the coolest thing with tech right now for a 7th grader?
  • What’s the worst thing about tech right now for a 7th grader?
  • At what time in the day/evening/night do you usually take your last look at a screen?
  • Track your mood: would you say you’re in a better mood, a worse mood, or no difference, after doing social media or video games?

6th Grade SEL Class Summary – Sept 13

Today we had introductions from the full SEL teaching team: Darlene, Nell, Señora Ellsworth-Yow, and Christopher.

We explored questions like

  • What makes technology tricky? and
  • What makes it different from everything else in our lives, that we would need to have major rules, guidelines, expectations, and conversations around it?

We talked about how our screens are really powerful–they captivate our attention, tempt us, and distract us frequently. We touched on the “attention economy,” where all those web- and app-developers out there are trying to “suck you in,” to keep you coming back to their app or site, to get you to buy things or believe the same things they do. We also touched on how self-awareness, self-control, and intentional MINDFULNESS will help prevent our technology from controlling our lives.

Mainly, though, our conversation focused on one idea: cell phones and other mobile devices. In 6th grade, cell phones and mobile devices start to be a BIG DEAL for some. (As adolescents, you are turning your attention from adults toward each other, and many of you want to connect socially using technology.) Already in 6th grade, we have a bunch of kids who have cell phones or other mobile devices that allow them to text, FaceTime, email, and otherwise connect with friends.

So, as the year goes on, we’re going to explore more deeply how to build a 6th grade community where everyone feels included, even when some might be connecting over technology and others may not. We also want to remember that having a phone is not always an advantage–there are many benefits also to waiting a while longer before you get your own personal device.

Half the grade will pick up where we left off on this conversation September 27; the other half will pick back up with me on October 4. In the meantime, think about your own personal relationship with technology and media:
  • What devices do you use on a daily/weekly basis?
  • What apps, sites, or other programs do you mainly use? For learning OR fun?
  • How, if at all, do you like to connect with others using technology?
  • What are the benefits of spending your free time OFF screens?

MCDS teachers & students: help reduce print waste!

Students, teachers, and parents: welcome back for the 2017-18 school year! This year we are launching a campaign to reduce print waste on campus. You can follow our progress with this initiative all year at THIS SITE.
Here’s a preview of what you’ll see if you click-through:

Reducing Print Waste

Thank you in advance for doing your part to help save resources and protect our planet! We are excited for the year ahead.

MCDS student holds Tech+Social Media Event for 8-16 year-olds: April 29, 2017

Mercer Henderson, an MCDS 8th grader who founded 4GirlsTech (empowering young girls to solve problems through entrepreneurship), will be hosting a tech + social media event at the JCC in San Francisco, 8am-noon on Saturday, April 29. This event is open to boys and girls alike, aged 8-16. We applaud Mercer on her efforts to empower girls in the 21st century! If you’re not familiar with her apps, check out Audiots (integrates sound with emoji) and FriendIts (facilitates clothes borrowing/lending among friend groups).

Teaching Media Literacy and Effective Search in the Age of Fake News

Information literacy has never been more important. To that end, here are some principles, tools, and learning approaches by which we guide our students:

  • Setting up research projects: We want our faculty to set up research projects so students are well equipped to strengthen their research skills through a bit of reach/struggle and they don’t flail so much they’re not able to find the relevant information they need. This can be particularly tricky since students are at all different levels, their research topics can vary widely, and the nature of a project also can be different from class to class and teacher to teacher. We also teach students that the answers they’re seeking may not come word-for-word the way they imagine they might–for example, a resource might not say “the Monterey Pine needs 6 inches of water or more per year to survive,” but it may say “Monterey Pines thrive in coastal, temperate climates,” which would require some inference about how much water they need.
  • Consider the source: We teach our students to consider the source of information–wikipedia, .gov, .edu, .com, etc., and how to read for hidden bias. A great example to use for this exercise is On first glance, it seems like a legitimate site for teaching students about the life and times of MLK. But a closer read reveals grotesque content pushing the white supremacist agenda. Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 2.52.22 PM
  • Effective search: We teach students how to come up with key words (most students are inclined to type an entire question, even after practice with keywords–this takes a while to develop), and we also teach them the following advanced google search tools:Search Tips for Google
  • Kid-friendly search engines: The kid-friendly search engines can be helpful, especially for younger students. They’re not an absolute fix, though, as it also depends on what’s available on the web on a particular subject. (In other words, some topics don’t have kid-friendly materials out there, period.) Sweet Search is another good one, and sometimes entering “for kids” in a standard google search can render useful results.
  • Accommodating various reading levels: Newsela and Rewordify have functionality to help tailor/translate nonfiction info to a student’s particular reading level.
  • Just-for-fun: A Google A Day is a fun way to exercise the research muscle on a daily basis. We have practiced this in class as well. In fact Google has published curriculum on teaching effective search.
  • Word clouds of relevant terms: Another idea is to have students do preliminary searches before they dive in fully on their research topic. For example, have a student read the wikipedia article on the subject and copy-paste relevant sections into a word cloud tool to see what terms occur most often in the article for that topic. If there are any major terms in the word-cloud the student doesn’t know, he should research those first to get a baseline understanding of the vocabulary of what he’s researching.Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 11.12.15 AM
  • BrainPop! Have students login to Brain Pop (username / password for our MCDS account available upon request) and have them watch the video(s) on their research topic(s) to develop a baseline understanding.
  • Books! Or, just take the old-fashioned approach: start with books from the MCDS library, and then move to the web to research questions the kid-friendly books didn’t answer.

With such a wealth of information at our students’ fingertips, the charge becomes less about finding the right answer, and more about asking the right questions, consulting reliable sources, thinking critically, considering multiple perspectives, and synthesizing information in a meaningful way. To see a template we recently used with 5th graders to help guide them through this process, click HERE.

Common Sense Media Marin Teen Panel: 11/7/16

We had a great turnout for this morning’s 8th grade panel. Consistent with what we see in our work with students, the panelists represented a wide variety of perspectives and relationships with technology. Below are notes from what the panelists said. We recommend that, as you read through them, you think about which perspectives align most closely with your child/ren and family culture around technology.




  • Turn phone onto airplane mode while I sleep; check it in the car on my way to school. Phone stays put away while at school. School day starts with Chromebook at school–check email to make sure I didn’t forget HW assignments.
  • Home rules around devices: since I’ve matured and proven my responsibility with technology, I get to FaceTime my friends just for fun. I didn’t get to do that before–it started with texting. I like getting to see my friends’ faces on FaceTime, though, because it feels more like that physical face-to-face connection.
  • Best and worst of technology: best is the “school part”–it’s helpful to have HW assignments all in one place. In my younger years, you had to remember every paper to take home and if you lost it, you just didn’t have it. But now with technology you can’t really forget anything; it’s really easy.
  • If you were the parent, what rules would be useful to set that are not currently in place? What about at school, or with friends? And which rules do you think are not helpful.
    • Having support at school is great–I really like that they’re not “out to get me;” they’re trying to help me learn healthy ways to use technology.
    • Rules are different for my mom’s house vs my dad’s–I actually prefer the stricter rules at my mom’s house because it helps me build discipline and responsibility. I find myself wanting to do that also at my dad’s house, where my siblings and I are allowed more screen time for video games and such.
  • When I get a text or Snapchat message, if I’m busy (doing something I enjoy), I let myself forget about it and check it later. If I’m doing HW, I’m more likely to check it sooner as a break or brief distraction.
  • I actually like time to myself, so I turn off my phone a lot so I don’t have to answer calls or texts all the time.
  • I never respond to anyone’s texts, so people don’t expect me to respond right away (or ever).
  • My parents do check my phone and texts regularly, just to make sure things are ok. I know my parents trust me; I also know that others might send me stuff that’s not great and it makes me feel safe to know they’re involved.
  • I think it’s important to have privacy–kids can delete stuff they don’t want their parents to see. It’s better to have a relationship where I’ll talk to my parents if something’s wrong, instead of them trying to find it on my phone.
  • Your parents won’t always be there to check, so it’s helpful to get practice handling tough situations on my own (and get my parents’ help if I need it).
  • It’s good for parents to check, and it’s good for parents to let you know that they’re checking. It wouldn’t be good for them to go behind my back. It’s also good for parents to understand how to use the apps and sites their kids are using.
  • I wouldn’t want my parents to check my tumblr account–that’s where I vent and post stuff that I wouldn’t really want my parents to see. I think it depends on the kid and the app or site, whether or not it’s a good thing for your parent to be involved.
  • Sometimes younger or less mature kids need more parent involvement. Regardless, it should ALWAYS be with the kid knowing–never spying/behind their back.
  • I think that whoever pays the phone bill should have access to the device, but maybe not ALL the content in each app. Privacy should be a right with all people.



  • Removing the phone from the room is helpful when I’m doing HW.
  • I get all my work done on time, and I’m able to respond to people sometimes in the midst of doing my work. I really think it depends on the person–some people can do that; others have a harder time.
  • I have pretty severe ADHD and I don’t take medication for it, but when I’m alone in my room doing HW, I need to reset my brain every 30 minutes or so. So I work continuously for 30 or 60 minutes, then I take a break to watch TV or do chores or talk to my family.
  • Research (Stanford, Hopkins) shows that neither adults nor kids can multitask efficiently. The reality is that you are losing time and energy “switching” tasks frequently. But the idea of working for a continuous, focused period of time, and then taking a break to reset, is valuable.



  • I don’t have any social media. I don’t have a phone. I don’t particularly feel the need for a phone; my family hasn’t chimed in on that, I just feel like I can manage my life without my phone. I see my friends at school and it’s nice to have some time away from them at home.
  • As a trans and gay person, it’s hard to find people like me in person. Many people my age aren’t out or around. With social media, I can connect with people who are like me.
  • I’m also gay–I came out when I was really young. I don’t use social media to try to meet people in a creepy way; I use it to build healthy, functional relationships with people who I build friends with.
  • Instagram allows me to be creative with photography and making my feed “look pretty.” It really excites me–I really love it.
  • The only social media I have is Instagram. It started with photography; I like making my feed look pretty, too. I also use it sometimes to communicate with my friends. It’s an easy way to stay in touch with people.
  • I like to use Snapchat because it’s quick and fun. I usually feel worse about myself when I go on Instagram, because everyone is posting certain images of themselves, and then I end up comparing myself to them and not feeling great about myself. So I avoid that and lean more toward Snapchat.
  • Instagram is more formal; I feel like I can have better, more casual conversations on Snapchat.
  • Photo apps tend to be more female-driven, especially Instagram. For every one photo posted to Instagram by young people, there is an average of 100 taken. That is less the case for Snapchat.
  • My friends feel pressure to respond to all their friends’ photos on Instagram. A lot of them deleted their accounts because it got too overwhelming.
  • Some of my friends do photo shoots to try to get a good photo to post to Instagram. They try to make themselves look their best, or be the most artsy.
  • I like to watch soccer videos on Instagram. I also have my own camera and I like photography, so I do Instagram much more than Snapchat.
  • Some people just try to send stuff on Snapchat to get their numbers higher. There’s no real meaning or substance behind what they’re sending.
  • Since I don’t use social media, I spend a lot of my time building. I build model sets for movies, models of my house, etc–I love building!
  • I love spending my free time outside, not glued to my social media. It helps me feel more relaxed.



  • Don’t post anything that you might possibly regret. Or just opt-out of social media. You can text with your friends or just see them at school.
  • If you connect with people you don’t know on social media, be careful and make sure you’re connecting about the RIGHT things–providing support, connecting with people who are like you to help you feel less alone.
  • You can have good and bad experiences with people you connect with in online games. Blocking the bad people can be tricky because they just make another account and find you again. Sometimes I just create a different account so they can’t find me.
  • Don’t abuse the privilege of having a phone.
  • If you have a phone, don’t text your friends about someone else. Even if you delete it, someone else may still have it and they could show it to other people. Feelings end up getting hurt.
  • Try to be present with your friends when you can. As 8th an grader, we’ll all be at different schools next year, and I want to enjoy my time I have in person with my classmates this year.



  • Who do you talk to when something goes wrong online?
    • My school.
    • My parents.
    • My therapist. She’s neutral and objective, she’s an expert, she doesn’t judge, and she’s often more reliable than my friends.
  • There are trolls online who are specifically there to get people angry. They follow you around to harass and incite you. It’s important to have someone you trust to turn to if/when that happens.
  • I’m not sure I would go to someone if something happened online with someone I don’t know–I probably wouldn’t care as much. I would go to my parents if something happened with someone I do know.



  • Sexting hasn’t really been a problem at my school so far, as far as I’m aware.
  • Sometimes friends-of-friends will add me on Snapchat and then after a week start saying things like “Wow, you’re hot,” and try to provoke me. But I don’t use technology that way. Some of my friends, and even my brother, do more sexting sometimes, but I think that sex is a really intimate thing that shouldn’t be shared over technology. I think that it’s weird that people think the anonymity of technology somehow makes it “safer” to make bad choices or take risks.



  • I try to be the same online as I am in person. There are a couple people I know who are really nice in person but are nasty in person (or vice versa), and it makes me think of them differently, like they’re fake or phony. If you’re consistent in the different parts of your life, you probably have stronger character.
  • Apps like Facetune allow people to adjust their bodies or faces to make themselves appear more attractive than they look in real life.
  • People spend a lot of time swooping their hair over or changing angles to get the right photo. People even go to a lot of trouble to think about taking a photo with the right backdrop.
  • I’m probably different online than I am in person. I like being able to go to different “places” on the Internet and explore different parts of myself.



  • All my friends have lots of interests that they’re passionate about, so they’re not spending all their time on social media or video games.
  • I think the stereotype is that teens are always on their phones or computers, but I also surround myself with people who have lots of different interests. “Addiction” is a strong word and I’m not sure I know anyone who’s really addicted to technology.
  • I don’t know if my friends are addicted, but some of them are constantly on Snapchat, even when we’re hanging out in person, and it’s hard to have a conversation with them when that’s happening.
  • I have some friends who play video games for 30 hours per week. That’s ALL they do. I’ve lost some friendships because of video games. That’s all they wanted to do, so there wasn’t room for our friendship anymore.
  • The dopamine response connected with many social media apps and video games is really powerful; sometimes kids need help managing that.
  • People are age often make plans to do something that looks really cool, like surfing or walking around downtown SF without parents, JUST to generate content for social media posts. It’s kind of sad. I miss living in the moment. I recently discovered yoga, and I’ve been putting my phone down more.
  • A lot of times, when a person feels awkward or uncomfortable, our first instinct is to go to our phone. I think that’s kind of sad, but it helps me feel better that I even recognize it.



  • App where people can sign up to sit with different table groups while at lunch, so it helps people not feel isolated during lunch.
  • App to tackle gender violence in India
  • App where if a woman is walking home alone, she can hold a button and if she lets go it notifies emergency officials and pings her location.
  • It’s great that some people want to use technology to help other people or make a positive impact on the world.
  • Hashtags like #notmyculture (anti rape culture) help spark positive cultural movements.
  • Petition websites like help rally groups to correct things that are wrong.
  • Go Fund Me can help people, like if you have cancer and need money to help pay your medical bills.

Reflections from our October-18 Parent Tech Forum

We had a great turnout for our Upper School Parent Tech Forum October 18th! Input from parents indicated a few common themes:

  • Parents recognize the positive value in technology: for themselves, their children, and their families. Examples include digital artistry, interpersonal connection, communication, convenience, research, productivity, learning, and writing composition.
  • Every child is different, and so is her/his relationship with technology. Even siblings within a family can vary widely in terms of how they use tech and the consequent social/emotional implications thereof. There is no one-size-fits-all structure for setting tech rules and culture at home.
  • Guidelines that should apply to all children/families include
    • active parenting (talking to your child/ren about tech on an ongoing basis, not just as a response or reaction to a problem);
    • increased privileges and independence with time and demonstrated responsibility; and
    • supporting balance of tech use with time offline/off screens.  
  • Parents feel overwhelmed by the many hazards kids face in their use of technology and, more specifically, the Internet. This includes:
    • not being present in the moment during social occasions–instead being glued to a screen;
    • the costs of tech use/overuse/addiction (eg, reading fewer books);
    • intense/violent nature of some web content, like porn;
    • YouTube videos can be great for helping kids learn new things and/or gain new perspectives, but the comments section often contains disrespectful or vulgar language. (If you’re a Chrome user and you’re interested in blocking all comments on YouTube, try this extension; and
    • choosing the best at-home monitoring/filtering tools feels overwhelming–choosing the right tool, setting it up, and managing it.

More than any other topic we covered, at-home monitoring/filtering seemed to be the most charged subject. As such, we’ll focus singularly on that topic during the March-30th Upper School Tech Forum. That will include a more detailed walkthrough of what the interfaces/setup/data-reporting for each of these tools look like, and more clearly defined processes for choosing which one works best for you.

In the meantime, you can refer to Slides 7&8 from our slide deck and contact us if you have questions. As a baseline, we recommend Circle with Disney as the best tool, with a special nod to Qustodio if you’re seeking more robust/granular controls, particularly with mobile devices that use data networks in addition to at-home wifi networks.

Here’s a more detailed chart outlining the features of the various tools we recommend:


The above covers three systems that we were able to test, but there are many others available on the market. Circle was by far the easiest system to set up out of the ones we tested. It automatically identified devices on the network, which made the initial set up a breeze. Luma also has the capability to identify devices automatically, but it also replaces your existing WiFi system, so there is a bit more setup involved. All three of these systems used iOS(Apple) or Android apps for setup and management.

If you would like an additional level of filtering, we would recommend installing an app-based filtering/monitoring solution like Qustodio. While we have heard great things about Qustodio from some of our parents, we have not yet had a chance to fully review this product, but we hope to have a more comprehensive blog post coming out soon that covers Qustodio and other app-based filtering/monitoring solutions.

For the full set of resources from Tuesday’s forum, click on the “PARENTS” tab above.

Welcome back, students, teachers, and parents!

We are excited to kick off the new school year with students on Wednesday, August 31. A couple important changes from last year:

  • All students in grades 3-8 will have 1:1 Chromebooks, with cart-based access to iPads and Macbooks
  • The Responsible Use Policy has been revised! Click here for the 5th-8th grade RUP. The 4th grade RUP is available here; 3rd grade is here; and 1st & 2nd grade is here. We will provide students with paper copies to sign and return to their homeroom teacher or advisor during the first week of school.

And here are a few important dates to note for the school year ahead:

  • UPPER SCHOOL PARENT FALL TECH FORUM: Tuesday, October 18, 8:30-10:00am on campus
  • COMMON SENSE MEDIA TEEN PANEL FOR PARENTS: Monday, November 7, 8:30-10:00am on campus
  • SCREENING OF THE FILM SCREENAGERS, Thursday, December 1, 7:00-8:30pm on campus
  • UPPER SCHOOL PARENT SPRING TECH FORUM: Tuesday, March 28, 8:30-10:00am on campus

Please be sure to visit often for easy links to resources as well as ongoing updates. We’re very much looking forward to a great 2016-2017!