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Book Review of "Social Media Wellness" by Ana Homayoun

Wednesday, November 29, 2017  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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Reviewed by Jonathan Davis, Middle School Head at Shorecrest Preparatory School, St. Petersburg, FL

As educators and parents, we have heard all of the buzzwords like “digital natives” and “screen time.” We have seen the impact that smart phones, tablets, and computers have on our students’ lives. And when we are being honest and reflective, we have experienced many of those same changes in our lives. At times, it feels as if the modern world is performing a giant social experiment where no one is quite sure how to manage disruptive new technologies or how to limit the use of them.

Like many educators, this topic is something I have been wrestling with for the past decade. Even after giving parents frequent “tech tips,” incorporating the school’s acceptable use policy into our classroom experiences, and bringing in high profile speakers to talk with families and students, every year seems to lead to an uptick in problems related to social media and technology use. Just when one issue has been put to bed, a new app comes along and new problems arise. 

Fortunately, Ana Homayoun has brought her extensive experience in dealing with students, schools, and social media to her new book, Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World. As a Middle School Head, I was eager to dive into the book to get some immediate ideas.

The author knows the landscape and writes a solid guide for navigating social media and the adolescent brain. She begins with a caveat: the technology world moves fast and things get dated quickly. The introduction and first few chapters hammer this point home. By the time you read the book (or even possibly this book review) will middle schoolers still be using Musical.ly?  The parents who were able to help their children with ask.fm are now unable to keep up with SnapChat. 

Homayoun wisely focuses on the bigger issues than specific apps and websites. She is more interested in how teens and pre-teens use technology and what that means for them on a daily basis. Here the adult/student divide is clear. An example is the meaning of social media for students compared to their parents and teachers. Homayoun states “profiles give teens the opportunity to create their own unique space and identity” in a much different way than most adults. While my Facebook page is for friends and acquaintances I already have, the teen Instagram account is designed to attract more friends and followers. 

For me, the heart of the book was the focus on helping teens (and honestly all of us) find balance and real wellness. Homayoun’s background is educational consulting and student support. She was on the front lines working with students when the tech/smartphone/iPad revolution occurred. From this experience, she has an extensive tips and suggestions for educators and parents. Some of them are easy and quickly adoptable, such as the “tech free” day for the whole school, including teachers and administrators; an idea I will be using a few times next semester. 

Her chapters on best educational practices and helping students with physical well-being dive deep into solutions. Homayoun accurately details the ways technology has impacted our lives personally and professionally. How can teachers incorporate technology without having their students becoming “screen zombies?” How can families help their children get adequate sleep and exercise? She lays out a framework that allows adolescents the independence that they crave while giving adults in their lives ways to guide them towards a healthier life. 

The information age has given us the world at our fingertips but has also imbalanced our relationships. The evidence is clear to anyone working with students today. Ana Homayoun’s book is an asset for parents, teachers, and administrators looking for ways to help tweens and teens navigate through the challenges of social media. 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Davis is head of the middle school at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, FL. 


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