The use of technology by children has long been a sticking point for parents, and during the pandemic, as its use has become even more prevalent, the fear of its potential danger has only grown. Author Katie Duffy-Schumacher of Rockville Centre has been educating children about using technology responsibly for several years, and brought her “Don’t Press Send” presentation to local Girl Scouts last week.
“This program is needed now more than ever,” Duffy-Schumacher said. “We educate about finding a place for technology in our lives and using it as a resource.”
The founder of Don’t Press Send, Inc. gave an outdoor presentation on the Village Green to Girl Scout Troops 822 and 811. The girls are in fourth and fifth grade at St. Agnes Cathedral School, an age group that both troop leaders and Duffy-Schumacher said they feel is a good age to receive to the message.
Duffy-Schumacher teaches children about the importance of not using certain apps, like Instagram or SnapChat, if they are under 13, and she discusses mindfulness and the importance of self-care. During the presentation, she had the children practice breathing exercises.
“It was a great conversation and presentation,” she said. “The kids were engaged and it was well-received.”
Duffy-Schumacher said it was actually the first time she had given a presentation outdoors, which helped drive her point home even further.
“Children need to be social,” she said, “and right now the only way to do that is outside.”
Duffy-Schumacher is currently writing her second book, about what this pandemic has taught us, and said she believes some good will come out of it.
“In this pandemic, we have to get creative,” she said. “I see a lot of kids riding bicycles. Parents can encourage that by having their kids run errands that we’re used to doing every day – get a loaf of bread or gallon of milk at the local deli, take the mail to the mailbox, learn the names of the streets in your neighborhood.”
She said that children can be taught to be more social, and to see the beauty around them, like the leaves starting to change.
“Our kids have been busied so much, they’ve missed out,” she said. “We teach what’s valuable, how to connect, be present, and to value this time.”
Maura Kelly Magliaro has a daughter in fifth grade at St. Agnes and co-leads Troop 811 with Francesca Baker. She said that a lot of girls get phones around this age – often as fifth-grade graduation presents, for those who attend public elementary schools – so it seemed appropriate to have this presentation now.
“Fifth grade is such an emotional age,” she said. “Katie talked about the challenges these kids face that we didn’t have to, such as not knowing if you were left out of a party invitation. Now, they see the party photos posted online.”
These days, everything is recorded on social media, and it stays there. Pictures or comments posted cannot only cause feelings of isolation, but they can also affect college and job prospects later in life. She said Duffy-Schumacher also stressed the importance of “putting phones away” while on play dates so children can actively engage with one another.
During the hour-long presentation, the girls sat on mats, spaced at least six feet apart, and wore masks when appropriate, Magliaro said, noting that all of the girls loved it and told her it was one of their favorite Girl Scout meetings.
“She had them captivated,” she said. She held their attention for the entire hour.”
The troops purchased books for each of the 16 girls, and Schumacher gave them T-shirts.
“She really stresses ‘don’t press send until you know it’s okay’ to do so. Once it’s sent, you can’t take it back,” Magliaro said. “The younger they hear the message, the better.”