How to talk about technology with your children?

May 18, 2021

As I was reading a technology article this past week, one thing came to mind with regards to how to approach our kids and understand how they use their tech. Do I talk about it enough with my child? This is something that even working with technology and knowing the risks and benefits of it, I still feel that it is never sufficient. Our EARJ students have 200 school days approximately, spending an average of 6.5 hours a day in class. That may seem like a lot, but it pales in comparison to time spent outside of school. In fact, over the course of a year, students are in school only 15% of their time.

Well, if they are in school for 15% of the time, but on their phones, and computers after class, here we are again as parents, wondering what our kids are doing. And many parents are afraid of approaching their children to ask what they are doing online. Just as parents reinforce their children’s studies on math, reading, and science, remember that technology with a digital citizenship point of view should also be approached.

But what to do? And where to start? It can be difficult for parents to talk to their children about technology. Parents may be afraid of technology and that fear may permeate their conversations.

According to Annabel Sheinberg, VP of learning and partnerships at Planned Parenthood, she spends a lot of time talking to parents and discussing difficult topics which also involves technology at times.

“Remember that when your child asks a question, that is a big compliment and a chance to connect,” Sheinberg says. “Always affirm the asker with a statement such as, ‘That’s a great question’ or ‘I’m glad you asked’ or ‘I’m sure lots of people wonder about that.”

But as a parent, you can’t always depend on your child asking the question, or even starting a
conversation involving technology. So here are some ways you can actually approach your child and try to start a conversation (separated by age groups):

Children 8 and under
Show me how you do that on (name of the device).
What is your favorite thing to do on (name of the device)?
What do you think will happen next in the (movie/show/game)?
How did it make you feel when you saw that on (movie/show/game)?
When I’m on my phone, how does it make you feel?
Can I have permission to share this (picture/video/quote) of yours?

Children ages 8-13

How would you feel if someone shared something private about you online without your permission?
What if I shared it?
What things are private to you? What things are public?
Will you be able to finish your homework on time to (play game/watch show)?

Who are your friends online?
Do your friends ever do things that make you feel uncomfortable online? If so, what are they?
Do you feel (name of caregiver) is on devices too much? If so, how could we be better?
“Use open-ended questions whenever possible,” Steinberg suggests. “These start with what, how, and why, rather than do or when.”

Teens ages 13-17
What do you think that (show/movie/meme) is trying to say? Why do you think it’s saying that?
What would you tell a friend who shared something online that probably should have been kept private?
If a friend told you that you shared something that should have been private or made them feel uncomfortable, how would you feel?
How does technology affect dating relationships?
What’s something positive you can do online today?
Who do you want to be online?

Still, according to Annabel, teens may have difficult questions. They are experiencing a time of transition and figuring out who they are in the world. “It’s OK if you don’t know the answers”, Steinberg says. “Just discuss the question and model how to find the answer online using safe and trustworthy websites.”

“Try to be collaborative and empathetic in your approach,” Steinberg says. “Engage in mutual problem solving when possible rather than using the ‘parent voice’. This will deepen your relationship and connection so that future conversations happen.”

Carlos Eduardo Pinho
Director of Educational Technology 

Keep Calm and Embrace Stress!

May 11, 2021

Our Class of 2021 has gone through a tremendously challenging year for their final year of high school and their final year at EARJ. Expectations for what a grade 12 year would be like were  not entirely in sync with the reality of what this year has been. All of us as a community have experienced the unpredictability, uncertainty, and inconsistency brought on by the pandemic, not to mention the grief and loss that has touched too many in our community and across the globe! Students have gone through multiple variations of learning modes and teachers have had to adjust instruction, classrooms, planning time, and schedules, all while maintaining a focus on learning. Parents have had to do their own adjusting to these variations as well.

So has this been a stressful time for you as a parent, student, teacher, staff member? The answer to this question seems obvious, and perhaps you want to shout “OF COURSE, THIS HAS BEEN STRESSFUL!” We would probably all agree that the past year has been incredibly stressful. However, which statement below would you choose to sum up how you feel about this stress:

A. Stress is harmful and should be avoided, reduced, managed.

B. Stress is helpful and should be accepted, utilized, and embraced.

Which statement did you choose? This is how Dr. Karen McGonigal begins her book, The Upside of Stress, and she confesses to having to change her beliefs about stress and her approach to dealing with stress because evidence suggests that “stress is harmful only when you believe it is.”

For most of us, we have been conditioned to seek to reduce our stress, to the point that we worry about the impact stress has on our overall mental and physical health. But as McGonigal states, “The latest science reveals that stress can make you smarter, stronger, and more successful. It helps you learn and grow. It can inspire courage and compassion.” She continues, “The best way to manage stress isn’t to reduce or avoid it, but rather to rethink and even embrace it.”

What a challenge for all of us! Instead of commiserating with one another about how stressful this year has been on our children or on ourselves, could we choose to embrace the stress and allow it to transform us? A few quotes shared from a book about stress won’t necessarily change long-held beliefs you might have about stress, but I would challenge you to look at the stress from this past year and find ways to grow from it. I have given up on the idea that we should return to “normal” following this pandemic. Why would we be willing to accept “normal” as the desired outcome? Why not, instead, envision ourselves and our children becoming stronger and more resilient as a result of this past year? As McGonigal writes, “Even in circumstances of great suffering, human beings have a natural capacity to find hope, exert choice, and make meaning. This is why in our own lives, the most common effects of stress include, strength, growth, and resilience.”

Perhaps the reality that no one around the world has escaped being impacted in some way by the pandemic is an opportunity for us to embrace our common humanity. One final quote from The Upside of Stress: “The courage to grow from stress is universal. The strength to persevere, the instinct to connect with others, the ability to find hope and meaning in adversity–these are fundamental human capacities. They can emerge in times of stress no matter who you are or where you are.” As an EARJ community, we will continue to persevere, to connect with each other, to proceed with hope, and to derive meaning that will make us all better for having experienced the challenges of this past school year, whether we are a graduate going off to university or a preschooler promoting to first grade.

Howard De Leeuw
Gávea Upper School Principal


April 20, 2021

My grandad, born in 1903 and raised in the interior of the State of Rio, was a self-taught man. Being a farmer, a businessman, and a politician in the region, he was not only amazing with relationships and numbers, but also an avid reader. He loved all kinds of books: poems, crimes, novels. As he got older and started to face health struggles, he would ask other people to read for him.

So one given day when I was 11, he intentionally handed me a book to read him a poem, a poem that he loved. It was a portuguese translation of the poem “If”, by Rudyard Kipling. I did not understand much while I was reading it; so after I finished, he patiently guided me through it. I liked it so much that I wrote the poem in a piece of paper and took it home with me.

As my life went by, I would eventually read it again. No matter how many times I read it, I would always relate to or learn something new from it. I don´t think my grandad could have ever left me a greater heritage, as it has empowered me and supported me through so many times in my life.

He never spoke English or visited a different country other than Brazil. But he had books to transport him to the whole world, through his own eyes. As there is no such thing as one story, one character, one poem. Two people will never have the same vision, like movies for instance, where you see and hear everything, and just have to process it. The perspective of a story, the challenges set by a poem, the way a character looks in a book read by a farmer in a tropical country may be completely different from someone living on the other side of the globe with different social, geographical, and cultural realities. Books read by the same person in different times of their lives may differ. A lot. And that is the magic of books.

On April 23rd we celebrate “World Book Day”. How about reading a simple story to your child without pictures or drawings, asking him/her to keep their eyes closed and describe the scenario, the character, the light, the smells… you can do the same, and then you will have fun comparing the two outcomes!

PS: I learned in the EARJ International week that “If” has consistently been voted as Britain’s favourite poem… so here’s the poem, with the translation in Portuguese that my grandfather presented me “a few” years ago. A big thank you to Rudyard Kipling and all the writers of this planet.

IF – By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

SE… – Rudyard Kipling

Se puderes guardar o sangue frio diante de quem fora de si te acusar;
e, no instante em que duvidem de teu ânimo e firmeza,
tu puderes ter fé na própria fortaleza,
sem desprezar contudo a desconfiança alheia…

Se tu puderes não odiar a quem te odeia,
nem pagar com a calúnia a quem te calunia,
sem que tires daí motivos de ufania,
sonhar, sem permitir que o sonho te domine;
pensar, sem que em pensar tua ambição se confine,
e esperar sempre e sempre, infatigavelmente…

Se com o mesmo sereno olhar indiferente
puderes encarar a derrota e a vitória,
como embuste que são da fortuna ilusória,
e estóico suportar que intrigas e mentiras
deturpem a palavra honesta que profiras…

Se puderes, ao ver em pedaços destruída
pela sorte maldosa, a obra de tua vida,
tomar de novo, a ferramenta desgastada
e sem queixumes vãos, recomeçar do nada…

Se, tendo loucamente arriscado e perdido
tudo quanto era teu, num só lance atrevido,
tu puderes voltar à faina ingrata e dura,
sem aludir jamais à sinistra aventura…

Se tu puderes coração, músculos, nervos
reduzir da vontade à condição de servos,
que, embora exausto, lhe obedeçam ao comando…

Se, andando a par dos reis e com os grandes lidando,
puderes conservar a naturalidade,
e no meio da turba a personalidade;
impávido afrontar adulações, engodos,
opressões, merecer a confiança de todos,
sem que possa contar, todavia, contigo
incondicionalmente o teu melhor amigo…

Se de cada minuto os sessenta segundos
tu puderes tornar com o teu suor fecundos…

A Terra será tua, e os bens que se não somem,
e, o que é melhor, meu filho, então serás um Homem!

Cristina Conforto
Director of Advancement