Protecting Girls in a Tech-Saturated World

Protecting Girls in a Tech-Saturated World

Encouraging parental participation in the school’s mission and life is a hallmark of Catholic education and the La Reina experience. With this teamwork in place, La Reina has restructured its approach to technology integration and continues to make enhancements to learning. Through a thoughtful and purposeful approach that emphasizes that students should first grasp the essence of their humanity within a broader context before engaging with online
learning platforms and social media, changes were made to the ways students interact with and use technology.

Last school year, we set additional parameters in the 6th grade around students’ access to their academic and personal devices. Supported by new
studies that prove even when a device is nearby and not in a student’s hands, the device will continue to occupy the child’s thoughts and distract from
learning; school-issued iPads were made available solely for academic purposes with teacher guidance, and then placed at an onsite charging station. The positive effect that this adjustment had on our youngest students encouraged our decision to keep all academic devices for Grades 6-8 on campus during the new school year. All school-issued devices will now remain on campus after school hours and during vacation periods, allowing students to fully engage with their families and outside activities.

Acknowledging current research and parent/student feedback around the deleterious impact technology has on students’ social and emotional health, La Reina is also increasing limitations around personal devices for middle school students during lunchtime using a system of positive incentives. This past school year, students were motivated by a reward system for voluntarily placing their phones in a safe location during lunch. At the end of each month,
the team of students with the most tokens enjoyed a pizza party with their peers.

Additionally, the lunch period was expanded to help foster friendships with classmates and the pursuit of healthy and fun activities was encouraged. Wellness stations were established that offered girls the opportunity to quietly read or draw, play ping pong and other games, or have fun in a staffed art room.

Initially, middle school students reluctantly placed their phones in the basket at lunch. After six weeks, they began tossing their phones in to run off to play and socialize with friends. Parents report that their daughters are happier and more carefree, and faculty members have observed a significant increase in engagement in the classroom as well as positive behaviors. This is but one example of the thoughtful changes made to the way students interact with technology.

As this is written, La Reina is in the midst of these pioneering efforts focused on promoting thoughtful and appropriate technology use in education. During the 2022-23 school year, a significant portion of disciplinary issues at La Reina revolved around the improper use of technology on campus. However, as of the current moment, the top two conduct infractions for the 2023-24 school year at La Reina are tardiness and unauthorized eating in the classroom. Notably, the inappropriate use of technology has seen a significant reduction in reported incidents.

La Reina faculty remain dedicated to oversight of the progress made through these initiatives, with a focus on evaluating their impact. Beyond examining conduct data, Leadership will also analyze student feedback, academic achievement data, and input from parents as part of their comprehensive assessment process.

Cultivating trust with parents plays a vital role in effectively addressing crucial issues such as the safe, ethical, and effective integration of technology into the learning environment. This trust is actively nurtured by both educators and administrators, who prioritize actively listening to parents and create opportunities for open dialogue. This collaborative partnership stands as a fundamental pillar of a Catholic education.