As creatures fashioned after the Divine we are, at our cores, social beings. God Himself did not exist in singular but in triunity when He said, “Let us create man in Our Own Image.” One of the cruelest forms of human torture is isolation. None among us can grow, can thrive, in seclusion.

As an academic institution, our focus is heavy on intellectual growth here at HLA, as you would expect. As a Christian school, we put great emphasis on spiritual growth as well. But there is another significant area needing nurturance in our students that lies beneath the surface of everything else we do, and that is social training.

One threat that has infiltrated our young people’s lives and challenges meaningful interchange is the proliferation of social media. This is the first generation that has grown up navigating screens with their pudgy toddler fingers, who owned their own devices before they grew permanent teeth, and who documented their daily journeys through adolescence with profuse selfies. It is very much a social experiment to see what kind of adults will emerge as a result of more time converse electronically than bygone days of face-to-face talking. Here at Hillcrest, we are committed to seeing our students develop into adults who can communicate, cooperate, and constructively co-exist with others in healthy, effective ways.

An integral aspect of this training must juxtapose the dire reality of excessive engagement in this highly addictive activity against the wiser use of our limited commodity of time. Social skills are honed by interaction with human voices and faces, not media. To facilitate this, we provide screen-free zones and activities to entice students away from the allure of their isolating, glowing devices and into the satisfying warmth of human connection.

We implement this in a number of ways in our classrooms and beyond. In journalism we encourage discourse around writing ideas, sometimes it becomes rather spirited. Students are expected to help proofread one another’s work and sharpen each other’s writing skills. In Book of Mark, groups of students gather to dissect manuscripts and engage in discussion defining themes and deeper meaning of texts. Music classes, sports teams, and after-school clubs provide further opportunities to build community as we rehearse, strategize, and discover new interests together.

As adults, we must set an example with our own temperate use of social media. Prohibit phone use at the dinner table. Discuss the vise of constant distraction from incoming texts while conversing with a real, live person. Unveil the pitfall of remaining in a constant state of vigilance with regard to electronic notices. Teach your children to unplug without fear of missing out. With empathy and tenderness, help break the very genuine addictions they may have to devices. Demonstrate how to connect with the people around them by taking long walks outside, reading and discussing novels together, or learning a new game or skill.  Parents are a child’s greatest teacher and influence, even during the teen years. Don’t miss this opportunity to influence your child as they grow in stature, in wisdom, and favor with God and man.

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