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From the Deputy Principal, Student Engagement and Wellbeing

20 October 2023

In 1983 I completed my Work Experience placement at IBM. One of the most exciting things I did on work experience was talk to the IBM staff in Japan using this amazing tool called the World Wide Web or “The Internet”. Many years later, in 2008, I joined Facebook and had about 10 followers, all work friends who had completed the same course as I on this new way to interact and learn – social media. This was one of the first ways we as a society began to interact with artificial intelligence in a very personal way. And social media, as we know it, has exploded exponentially. So much so that it is almost impossible for us to keep up with the changes, the growth, the possibilities, and the challenges.

Our lives are inextricably linked with social media. Our young people socialise via social media, they get their news there, they do their research there, they are entertained on these platforms, they express themselves via social media, they create and design, and they connect with their online community. As a College community, we live in two camps – embracing the awesome power of the internet and social media, and absolutely cursing the awesome power of the internet and social media. It is a double-edged sword. As families, you too are challenged by this paradox. As a Wellbeing Team we can honestly say that at least 80% of the issues we deal with spring from or are fuelled by social media.

This challenge offers us the opportunity of partnership. It is quite obvious to us that the bulk of these social media interactions occur outside of school. They usually occur at nighttime and over the weekend. However, these interactions often spill out onto the school yard and the online chats become fuel for disharmony and disruption to learning. Our challenge, as the adults in our students’ lives, is to be vigilant, to intercede, to guide, and to challenge.

I encourage all families to take the time to revisit the social media safe behaviours conversation I am sure you have had many times already. It is vital that this message be reiterated several times by families and by the College. The e-Safety Commission is a wealth of knowledge and resources for families and students alike. Please take the time to visit this site and to work through the resources there. These resources are available in many languages to make it easier for all of us. The wisdom in these resources will assist all families to address the challenges of social media but also empower us to teach our young people how to harness the power of the internet in positive and meaningful ways.

Pope Francis has been one of the most technologically savvy popes of recent modern times. In 2019, Pope Francis stated that modern communications were “a gift of God which involves great responsibility”. He adds “Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarisation and division between individuals and groups”. And therein lies the paradox. As the adults in our young peoples’ lives, it is indeed our responsibility to teach our young people how to use this “gift of God” to actually facilitate relationships rather than hinder them, to promote the good of society rather than destroy it, and to create connection rather than division. I know that together, in partnership, we can do this.

Ivanka Spiteri

Deputy Principal, Student Engagement and Wellbeing