WAYNE, NJ – The Wayne Education Association and the Wayne Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse hosted a parent education night at Wayne Valley High School.  The topic was social media safety, which was presented by Rob Hackenson of Dynamic Influence.

“The average age a child gets a smart phone is ten years old,” said Hackenson during his educational and entertaining presentation. “While these young minds are developing, technology and social media pressures are affecting negative behaviors and ideas about themselves.”

The presentation was a little more than an hour long and covered many topics including psychological wellbeing in relation to social media, technology addiction, cyber bullying, online sexual predators and more importantly: strategies for handling all of these subjects.

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When talking about technology addiction, Hackensack showed a slide that gave these statistics:

  • Youth ages 8-18 average 7+ hours a day of screen time
  • 95% of Teens own smartphones
  • 45% are online ‘almost constantly’
  • 7th-12th graders send, on average, 118 text messages per day
  • Youth spend 33 minutes talking compared to an hour and 35 minutes texting.

Hackenson displayed a graph based on surveys and various studies showing a link to the length of time adolescents spend on social media and their psychological wellbeing.  After an average of more than two hours per day of being online, happiness measurements decline and the more time spent online, the less happy our children are. He then linked the sharp increase in teen suicide to the subject at hand.

“Our children can now quantify their status, by how many likes they get, or comments on their posts,” Hackenson said. “They are comparing their own personal truths to the social masks that people show online.  This has an effect on anxiety and depression levels in our youth.”

Technology addiction affects adults as well. In 2012, adults spent, on average, 1.4 hours per day on their phones. In 2018, it doubled to 3.25 hours per day.

A survey of 6,000 children aged 8-13 showed these results:

  • 54% think their parents spend too much time on their phones
  • 32% of the kids felt neglected when parents are glued to their phones
  • 52% of parents surveyed agreed with the above results

Michelle Duffy, a parent of a freshman in college, a freshman in high school and a 7th grader attended the presentation and said: “It was very informative.  It just hits home and you know what you should be doing, and this just reinforced this.  My kids are always, ALWAYS on their phones.”

"We like to bring activities and presentations like this that will help the community in general,” said Rob Sarti, the Treasurer for the Wayne Education Association. “I’ve been a teacher for twenty-one years and one of the bigger issues today are the social media dangers. This is something that we, as adults, didn’t have growing up and we don’t know how our children are navigating through social media and how it’s affecting them. So, we all, as a community, need these tools in order to understand and learn how to address modern issues with our children.”

Dawn Auerbach is the Director of Elementary Education for the Wayne School District. “Digital citizenship is one of our initiatives where we’re working to make our kids more digitally responsible,” she said. “Parents are very well intentioned when it comes to raising their children, but social media is changing every day and we want to make sure we provide them with the resources they need to be able to help guide their children through this changing landscape.”

Earlier in the day, Hackenson provided a slightly different presentation for the middle school students. “The kids were very into the assemblies,” said Auerbach. “We’ll see how much they take away, but again, we have to make sure we’re doing everything we can. Even if they took a small percentage of what was shared, it was a worthwhile event.”

Matthew Kriley is the Principal at Lafayette Elementary School and sits on a social media committee which has representatives from all of the elementary schools, one middle school representative and Tracy Leigh the Teacher Coordinator of Technology Integration for the district. “We’ve done a lot of research on social media applications, gaming apps and other apps that children use,” he said to the audience in attendance.  “We are creating a website that is for anybody who has any questions about social media. We are working on providing information on security settings, as well as age restrictions. But our main goal is to promote children staying social to develop interpersonal skills and supporting conflict resolution.”

To this end the social media committee is working on a calendar of events with each day having different themes like ‘Maker Monday,’ or ‘Work-out Wednesday.’ “We want to promote activities that don’t evolve around technology or social media,” said Kriley.

The presentations held on Monday were the kick-off a larger program. “We want to provide appropriate education for parents, so we’re collecting data on what parents want to know about social media,” said Leigh. “Then we’re creating a resource website from the district for all the parents to give them further resources beyond today’s presentation.  This is just the beginning.”

After his presentation, Hackenson said: “I’ve been doing this presentation since 2006 and it has evolved as technology and social media evolved, so it’s about constantly having your finger on the pulse and paying attention to what’s going on.”

Everyone in attendance felt that the subject matter was timely, appropriate and much needed.