From the Principal

Welcome to week seven which has been a relatively busy week for all. I would like to thank those parents who took up the opportunity to meet with staff at the Report Nights and to receive feedback on their son’s progress. These are very important occasions and knowing the effort that goes into them by our staff it is always pleasing to see so many in attendance. I hope the feedback you received was positive and will be useful in making further improvements in your son’s education.

On Friday of this week the College will celebrate Fathers’ Day with mass and a breakfast. We are hoping as many fathers, grandfathers and other significant males in the lives of our boys are able to join us for this wonderful gathering. It would be easy to become a little cynical about days like Fathers’ Day due to the fact that it has been hijacked by commercial interests. However, the original idea of reflecting on the importance of fathers and other significant males in our lives is important and I encourage you to do this.

It’s the day in the year when men stereotypically receive a pair of socks, a shirt or a bad tie, however if this is all it is then we have missed the point. Fathers, for the most part, don’t want or expect much; most are satisfied with the knowledge that they are loved and respected by their children.

Father’s Day is very special to me. Although receiving gifts is fun, it is not what I look forward to most. The two things I do focus on are; how fortunate I am to be blessed with three beautiful children and that being a dad is the most important job that I’ll ever have. A job that neither I nor any father ever receives formal training for. A job where there is no retirement age, a job we will never master, but a job that brings the greatest of joys, the deepest of learning and a job that defines who we are.

As fathers, I believe our job is to make family our greatest priority. Our children should never have a moment’s uncertainty about whether they are loved, that they are believed in, whether they are supported, or whether they belong. These are the great responsibilities of fatherhood.

I also believe as fathers we should never lose sight of the things we can learn from our kids. The influence our children can have on their parents is widely under-rated. I know that I’m continuing to learn and change through my kids every day. I think parents spend twenty years raising their kids, and about half-way through that process, the kids start raising their parents as well. In the end, everyone is better off – the older generation passes on its wisdom to the young, and the younger generation keeps us in touch, keeps us young.

A final point with regards father’s day relates to men who will never be biological fathers but bring so many of the gifts to which I have referred to so many and that is the religious men. We are blessed in the Salesian community to have so many of these great men working with and for us and I pray that as we remember our own fathers that we keep these men, who do so much great work, in our prayers and in our thoughts especially this Sunday.

Whilst on the topic of Father’s Day I want to reflect on one of the greatest challenges fathers, and indeed parents, face in this technological world in which we live. That challenge is to monitor the amount of time our kids spend in front of screens. When most of us were growing up all our parents had to worry about was how much TV we were watching. Whilst it caused much angst in my house there was a limit to the time we kids could spend in front of the television. With most families having only one TV, simply sending the kids outside, to bed or to school put a stop to the mindless fixation on the screen. Today it is not so easy as our kids’ lives are surrounded by screens, TV’s in the home have increased in number with many of our children having their own TV in their bedroom. Add to this their computers and more importantly their phones and we can see that our kids have 24/7 access to a screen.

We know that kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens and studies are now showing this may be inhibiting their emotional growth and their ability to recognise emotions in others. During the week I read an article on human behaviour in the journal ‘Computers’ and a number of interesting points were made.

One study revealed that sixth graders who went without technology for a week were far better at reading the emotions of others when compared with a group who had full access to technology.

There have been other studies linking the amount of screen time to other social issues including childhood obesity, irregular sleeping patterns, and social or behavioural issues. So the question posed for us is, “How much time in front of a screen is reasonable?”

The latest recommendations indicate that entertainment screen time should be limited to two hours a day for 3 – 18 year olds. This would be quite confronting to many of us with our children spending far in excess of this on a regular basis.

The studies go on to suggest that the most important thing we must ensure is that our kids are getting enough face-to-face interaction to enable them to develop fully into the competent social beings they have the potential to become. Our social skills are reliant on regular interactions to maintain them.

Given the smorgasbord of technology available to our children how do we monitor and control its use? The suggestions in the article were not rocket science with the simple idea of families working together to decide how much time should be spent in front of a screen each day and to make sure good choices are being made about what media to take in. It sounds simple but as we know it easier said than done.

In the mean time we as a school will continue to monitor how much time we are asking our students to spend in front of a screen for educational purposes and make sure we are not adding to the problem. The other important factor we must all work at is ensuring our kids and in deed ourselves don’t allow technology to limit too much the amount of personal interactions we have. Emails, SMS, Facebook are all social interactions yet there is no personal contact in any of them. I strongly suggest a phone call, a visit, a walk to the office next door rather than totally relying on technology as you might actually enjoy the personal interaction.

Have a great week and may God bless all in the community especially fathers on their special day.

Robert Brennan