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January 2024

“Striking a Balance with Tech and Building Real Connections”

by school parents Thom Hiatt and Linda Swann, 

parent representatives on the SCHS Safety Committee


In the age of constant connection, where screens are ever-present, teenagers face a unique safety challenge: navigating the intricate relationship between technology and their mental well-being. While social media and smartphones offer undeniable benefits, their overuse can pose risks to mental health, impacting self-esteem, relationships, sleep and self-care. 


So, how can we, as Cougar parents, help to create a healthy balance with technology and prioritize real-world connections? Here are some ideas to start making incremental improvements:


Finding the Sweet Spot


  • Mindful Media Management: Set mutually-agreed screen-time limits. Start with small changes like tech-free zones at meals or before bedtime. Engage in enriching online activities, rather than mindless scrolling.

  • Embrace the Pause: Disconnect regularly. Prioritize in-person interactions with friends and family. Engage in hobbies that don't involve screens, like music, art and sports.

  • Switch up your Feed: Be mindful of what you consume online. Follow positive, inspiring accounts that uplift and motivate you. Unfollow those that trigger negativity or comparison.


Building Bridges in the Real World


  • Reconnect with friends: Invite friends over for a game night, go see a movie, or simply hang out without phones. Maybe try hiking or volunteering together.

  • Deepen existing bonds: Prioritize quality time with loved ones. Have meaningful conversations, listen actively, and offer support. Remember, your presence is the most valuable gift you can give, and the other person will be most appreciative.

  • Meet new friends in person: Join clubs, attend events, or volunteer in your community. Meeting new people expands your real life social circle and fosters genuine connections that can last a lifetime.


Knowing When to Reach Out


Sometimes, the complexities of life, technology and relationships can be overwhelming. The Cougar Wellness Center is a warm, welcoming space on campus where students can find answers, access resources, and prioritize emotional health. Our dedicated School Social Workers are experts in guiding teens through life's challenges both on and offline. Whether they seek individual counseling, support groups, community connections, or simply a confidential chat, they're available to help. 

The Cougar Wellness Center is in the second portable building on the upper field behind the K-Building. Students and parents may also write to for help. Confidentiality is respected.


Alexis Ortiz, MSW, PPSC and Brenna Churma, MSW, PPSC are our school social workers. They work with students in each of our grade levels, in a number of topic areas like depression, anxiety, stress management, communication challenges and substance abuse. 


"In the Wellness Center we have seen an increase in students struggling as a result of feeling disconnected, hopeless, and insecure. " says Ms. Churma. "I believe these trends can definitely be tied to social media use, cyberbullying, lack of personal connection and feelings of insecurity brought on by comparing our lives to those we see online, as well as other factors," added Ms. Ortiz. "The good news," says Ms. Churma, "we’re constantly working to ensure that we have the best support in place for your students. Please feel free to stop by, email, or call us. We would love to see you and support you on this journey."



“On more than one occasion, my student has made a threatening comment about harming themselves. It is usually after some kind of argument we’ve had. It feels like they are just venting, but when should I take it seriously?”



I would say that each time a student makes this type of comment it needs to be taken seriously. It is important to determine the underlying cause of this reaction, what tends to trigger these emotions, and help students in discovering healthy coping skills as well as regulation tools should they have these feelings again. If a student is ever mentioning harming themselves please reach out to us or a mental health provider to meet with the student as soon as possible. If this takes place when students are in your care you can utilize the following resource: Access and Crisis Line: 888-724-7240. It is great that they are expressing this rather than withholding their emotions, and in order to determine severity and level of support we would need to do a risk assessment as soon as possible, each time. The social workers are always here to support you should you have any questions or would like additional information on mental health supports.

Ms. Ortiz, School Social Worker


Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Each Other. It's up to each one of us to find a balance between our devices, and real life, and to nurture real friendships in person, creating a safer, more meaningful environment for everyone around us.


Parents, we invite you to send your safety-related comments and questions to — we may publish your question anonymously in our newsletter or on the Cougar website. You can visit to see all of our monthly safety articles, updates and parent questions.


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