Hernandez Talks About High School Student's Addiction To Social Media

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Premiere Date: 
May 12, 2017

Hernandez Talks About High School Student's Addiction To Social Media

Madison East High School Principal, Mike Hernandez, talks about what happened when the school shut off Wi-Fi to popular social media apps. Three other area schools also shut down popular social media apps this month. This was an effort to see if disconnecting from social media would help students with their academic and personal performance.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

Four Madison schools this month turned off Wi-Fi to some 30 popular social media phone apps used by students during the day trying to prevent what one high school principal calls the zombie walk. It's a Madison School District pilot effort to see whether disconnecting from social media helps students' grades, behavior and safety. Madison East High School Principal Mike Hernandez joins us with more. And thanks for being here.

Mike Hernandez:

No problem.

Frederica Freyberg:

You're the one who coined the zombie walk. What is that? What do you see?

Mike Hernandez:

When students are walking down the hall head down, not acknowledging or interacting with anybody just staring at their phone.

Frederica Freyberg:

Are students using their phones and accessing these apps during class?

Mike Hernandez:

I’m sure it happens, yes.

Frederica Freyberg:

And it wasn't very long ago -- I’ll say four years ago when my kids were in high school, there was a thing that was "Tag it and bag it." They were not allowed to have these cell phones in the school during the day at all. They were confiscated. So I guess the schools lost that battle in a big way?

Mike Hernandez:

I wouldn't say it was a battle. It's more along the lines of safety. Unfortunately in today's time. If something unfortunate happened, parents would like the ability to get in touch with their kids. So it's not a "tag it or bag it." It's students we have. We want it off and put away.

Frederica Freyberg:

And have you seen, since this went into effect, a change in the students and their behavior and their engagement?

Mike Hernandez:

It's been two weeks since we started the pilot. We've been monitoring it. Pulling in students and talking about it. Yes, we've seen a marked change in both class as well as in the hallways.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about the students' reaction?

Mike Hernandez:

So before we did this, we prepped students. We talked with advisory groups. Spoke with different groups of students and they kind of talked to their peers. I think that students understood the rationale of why we wanted to do this. Why I pushed hard to have this done. There are some that were upset. But at the end of the day I think people understood why I wanted to try this.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about the parents?

Mike Hernandez:

I have had much support of the parents. There's a few that ask some questions and ask us how are we going to quantify the data that we're collecting. But I think pretty supportive.

Frederica Freyberg:

Other than the zombie walk and being kind of disengaged in the school day, what are the harms of using these apps?

Mike Hernandez:

Well, what we were finding is sometimes when students would make -- a few students would be making poor choices. They would get onto certain apps or certain sites and they could set up a time to hey, we're all going to meet at this point or this. Facebook live, if students did get into an altercation or an argument it was on social media and it was blown up. There was just some poor choices made with it.

Frederica Freyberg:

Already, though, I’ve read that students have kind of defeated this and they're now able to get on these apps with a different kind of private network or something?

Mike Hernandez:

So it's -- I look at it as this. It's almost a game of chess, right? Yes, immediately there was a -- we started it on Monday, Tuesday afternoon some students figured out what the password was. So then we then set up a system in which it changed the password. A few students have then looked at different ways to mirror or to be able to log in from home. At the end of the day there's some energy being spent on this. For the majority of the students right now we have them a little bit more or more engaged in school.

Frederica Freyberg:

Students could also, though, on the technology side of this, they could -- couldn't they access these applications using data as opposed to Wi-Fi?

Mike Hernandez:

Yes, ma'am.

Frederica Freyberg:

That has gotta be a concern as well for parents in particular who probably pay for these plans?

Mike Hernandez:

Yes, that's why I sent a letter home a week before just foreshadowing this was happening. And then encouraged parents to have conversations with their students or their children to talk about using data wisely. Because what I don't want to happen is at the end of the month have a $300 or $400 bill. There's going to be anger there. Might be at the child but it's also going to be at the school. I just had to again foreshadow this with the parents and tell them the reason why I wanted to go down this path.

Frederica Freyberg:

How long will this pilot last for?

Mike Hernandez:

Till the end the school year June 9th. And then from there, as I mentioned, we've been talking with students. Walking around asking staff as well. I’ll do some similar over the summer. And then we'll make a decision will this continue for next year?

Frederica Freyberg:

Will you be looking at measuring the changes in behavior and engagement as well?

Mike Hernandez:

We have been. The behavior component is a little easier. The engagement component, attendance, tardy, being tardy or not. Those are -- but it's really gonna be more of the conversational. My hope is and again a theory is, as they now are more engaged in class, GPAs, credit attainment will go up. Now granted it's only six weeks. Two-thirds of the fourth quarter. It might not change everything now because we started so late in. But you had to start sometime. My hope is that we again start it next year.

Frederica Freyberg:

Great. Principal Hernandez, thanks very much.

Mike Hernandez:

No problem. Thank you for having me.

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