Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill


새해 많이 받으세

chúc mừng năm mới

Congratulations to Taubman House on winning the House Championship Swimming Cup this week. It was an excellent day out at SOPAC, and it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the boys and young men of the School.

In returning to the theme of respect and integrity, this week I spoke with your sons about the importance of courtesy, and I directed their attention to page 25 of the Record Book where there are some important principles, including our belief that good manners ought to be associated with strength of character and that courtesy ought not be dependent on the context, as well as some very specific School-related examples of how courtesy is demonstrated, including standing when speaking with adults, understanding our obligation to visitors to the School, and addressing adults. It is also important that your sons understand that our high expectations of their behaviour continue beyond the School gate. We do expect that they will be courteous and respectful on their journey to and from School. To stand for adults on public transport, to respect the rights of other passengers and transport staff, understanding that each and every boy and young man is a representative of something bigger than himself whenever he is in his Trinity uniform. Likewise, we expect that your sons’ behaviour in the online world of social media is courteous and responsible.

In recent years, the Heads and Deputy Heads of the Middle and Senior School have had to deal with a growing number of allegations of online misbehaviour that breach our (and your) expectations of your sons. Examples of online harassment, misogyny, identity theft, the sharing of intimate photos between children, unsubstantiated allegations and rumour-mongering, and breaches of privacy have all been brought to the School’s attention, sometimes by the victims of the online harassment, sometimes by parents, sometimes by our colleagues at other schools and, on rare occasions, by the police. To be clear, this behaviour is not limited to the boys and young men of Trinity Grammar School. To be equally clear, children and young people make mistakes that are both developmentally predictable and understandable. It is also not behaviour that all of our boys and young men are engaging in (I discourage sweeping reductive generalisations in my own students, so it would be inappropriate to assume all children and young people are engaging in unsafe behaviour online), but there is an unmistakable upward trend in thoughtless, cruel, judgemental and ignorant online behaviour, and whilst this anti-social behaviour is not only being perpetrated by children and young people, they are the ones most susceptible to the pitfalls of the online world. This is a widespread, insidious and largely hidden social phenomenon. This is the world in which your children are growing up.

As a teacher of boys for over three decades, my observation is that it is incredibly powerful for you to speak into this space with your sons. Only the adults can provide the advice and support to mediate the potentially negative effects of social media, and you are the most influential adults in your children’s lives. Expecting children and young people to self-manage their behaviour online is the metaphorical equivalent of leaving the inmates in charge of the asylum. I had a colleague who, for many years, used the simile that adolescence is like a turbo-charged V8 with poor steering and bad brakes. Your sons need your hand, and ours, on the steering wheel, and your foot on the brake to help them control and mitigate their all too predictable adolescent impulses.

Whilst the prospect of talking to your sons about sending nudes, pornography, gaming, online harassment or fighting the battle about screen time may not be anyone’s idea of a good night in of quality time with our children, a preparedness to engage in the awkward conversations and to hold the line about your family values and expectations, together with an adult perspective on the foreseeability of the consequences of online anti-social behaviour may well act as a protective measure for your sons until they reach the point where they have sufficient neurological development to make informed choices. As with many things in life, but especially with children and young people, it is important to be alert but not alarmed, to remember that they are error-prone and that prevention is far preferable to cure. Last week the E-Safety Commissioner released a report[1] on the Digital Lives of Australian Teens, which may provide an opportunity to raise the topic in conversation with your children.

In the spirit of partnership, and in the best interests of your sons’ welfare, it has been brought to my attention that young children, boys and girls, may be being shamelessly marketed to by the companies who manufacture vapes. Until recently, I was unaware that there was such a thing as a vape called a Cuvie, which mimics the appearance of a highlighter, or a Juul, which looks like a USB. It may be worth discreetly dropping the fact that you have heard about these devices in casual conversation at the dinner table or on the way to sport, and using the opportunity to parlay it into a chat about the risks of smoking. If you become aware of a shop selling these devices to children, the law is unambiguous. It is illegal for vapes to be sold to children under the age of 18, and you would be within your rights to alert the authorities[2]. The School’s stance is clearly articulated on page 22 of the Record Book, and it would be prudent for you to remind your sons that vaping is neither safe nor permitted.

May I extend my best wishes for a happy Lunar New Year.

Bradley Barr | Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill




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