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Teaching Middle Schoolers About Rules and Laws

Helping your child understand the significance of following rules and understanding laws can prepare them for more independence as they age.

The three branches of government likely won’t be anything new for most middle school students. They are accustomed to learning about the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, but they may not understand how these three branches apply to them. Having an understanding about rules and laws is a vital life skill for your child. As a parent of a middle schooler, are you wondering how to help your child understand rules and laws? Let’s take a look at where to get started.

Social media, increasing freedom, and the vast use of cell phones can be a combination that means teens need to understand some general rules and laws.

  1. Is the content on your child’s cell phone private? Discussing this question with your middle schooler can be looked at from the perspective of what happens if there is an issue at school. If school officials suspect that something inappropriate has happened with a phone, they are able to inspect the phone and its content. It is important for your child to understand that they can talk to you before complying. On the other hand, depending on the circumstances, this request may or may not be honored.
  1. What happens if a middle school student drinks in my home? As a parent of a preteen or early teen, this question may make you cringe; nonetheless, social host laws do exist. If you are a parent who has alcoholic beverages in your home, parents need to make sure their teens understand the criminal charges that can follow because of teen alcohol consumption. More information about social host laws will help you better understand this topic in preparation for talking with your child. This conversation may be a difficult one, but it helps minors understand problems associated with delinquency as a middle schooler. Rules do apply.
  1. What are the laws about cyberbullying? Cyberbullying is when someone uses a device to repeatedly intimate, bully, or cause injury to someone’s reputation using words, altered photos, etc. Helping your child understand how to properly manage their emotions and protect themselves requires an understanding of this all important topic. These issues can easily cross over into legal sanctions that may be specific to your state, local government, and educational entities. A better understanding of state laws can better prepare you to have this all important conversation with your child. The shameful and legal aspects of cyberbullying are long lasting! In this case, an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure.
  1. What problems can sexting cause? Adolescent hormones can lead them to make irrational choices that involve racy pictures, videos, and other inappropriate content. Helping your child understand that harmless flirting can easily turn into a legal matter may make them think twice before participating in something known as sexting. Law enforcement can view these images as child pornography. For example, if a seventeen year old is sexting a thirteen year old, hormonal driving flirting could turn into a legal matter. Help your children understand how sexting can go from an innocent teen prank to one of serious legal consequences. This conversation may not be an easy one to have; nonetheless, it is an important one.

Having these conversations with your children can lead to lots of questions. If you are a history buff, you may be able to give your child loads of examples to help them understand that these are not just laws on a book. They are in fact illustrated in court cases that have made history. Discussing these court cases with your child will help them better understand rules and laws.

  1. Freedom of Speech at School: In the course case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School, three students wore black armbands to school. They were protesting the Vietnam War. What followed was a monumental course case involving First Amendment rights, specifically freedom of speech. In this case, it was determined that students have some Constitutional rights and can express their personal beliefs about such issues. This means your child has to know that they are free to express their beliefs up to a point. Discussing this court case with your middle school aged child will help them better understand what crosses the point between being okay and not.
  1. Is there a legitimate right to privacy? New Jersey v. TLO. involved a teen who was caught smoking in the bathroom. From there, it was suspected that the child had other paraphernalia in their purse. Based on the teacher’s observation, it was decided that searching the student´s purse was acceptable based on informed suspicion. This landmark case on search and seizure can help your child understand how horribly wrong things can go if they are carrying around inappropriate items.
  1. Can my child lead religious prayers at school? Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe was a landmark case that can help your child understand how their religious beliefs can be asserted at school. Ultimately, this court case determined that public schools cannot sponsor religious activity, but that does not mean your child is not able to lead religious groups within certain boundaries. Exploring this case will help them understand how these situations can play out.
  1. Can teens be tried as adults? In 1966, a landmark case named Kent v. The United States clarified that teens can be tried as adults. In this case, a fourteen year old had committed burglary and was subsequently tried as an adult. This specific case may help your middle school student see how their decisions even as middle schoolers can impact the rest of their lives.
  2. Does the Constitution protect kids from their parents’ rules? During the middle school years, children begin to study the Constitution. It is important for them to know that their rights issued within the Constitution does not exclude them from parents´ rules. Consider sharing the court case DeShaney v. Winnebago County Social Services with your child to help them better understand the issue of Constitutional Rights and how they impact life at home.

Helping your child understand the significance of following rules and understanding laws can prepare them for more independence as they age. The middle school years can be a time of growing independence, therefore, knowing how their emerging identities can follow them for the rest of their lives is of the utmost importance. As a parent, these difficult conversations can be beneficial for you and your middle school child.

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