MORTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Students in school nowadays learn on iPads or Chromebooks.

Also, a new norm is having a phone with constant access to peers, trends, and social media.

With an update in technology, local educators pivot to match the demand for online safety tools.

“Actually, here in the office, we were basically feeling very overwhelmed with all the issues,” said Counselor Beth Spaniol. “We just thought of what can we do to be proactive?”

Morton Junior High School talks about the Wait Until 8th pledge as a resource to parents during 6th-grade orientation.

Wait Until 8th is a national campaign aimed at withholding access to full-blown smartphones until at least 8th grade.

“These kids are not ready to navigate the tricky waters of the digital arena,” said Executive Director & Founder of Wait Until 8th, Brooke Shannon. “It comes with exposure to sexual content or possible predators. It’s really hard for young children to be online on these phones on these different platforms and navigate it when they’re not developmentally ready.”

The village’s school counselors take it a step further.

Now three years into a “future readiness” class, counselors, the librarian, and a technology aide help guide students through the online realm.

“We talk about some of the challenges students have here and point out how technology might play a role in some of those conversations and what they can help do to mitigate that,” said Counselor Danielle VanMeenen. “Wait Until 8th is one of those things that we encourage because students are more able to have the skills they need to manage their devices at a later age than younger.”

The encore class teaches students how to use technology wisely, set healthy boundaries, and unplug when necessary.

“It is concerning, but if we’re proactive, and we have more of the awareness and preventative [measures], that’s our focus,” said Spaniol.

“[There] seems to be a warm response and just kind of hungry for tools to help manage this new arena,” said VanMeenen.

Both counselors say students feel empowered to make decisions on their own when given the tools to do so.

The ‘future readiness’ class is offered to both 7th and 8th graders.

7th Grade Lessons

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Growth Mindset
  • Financial Basics
  • Functions, Basic Biology of the brain
  • Career Clusters
  • Interpersonal Communication Styles
  • Career Interest Survey
  • Oversharing on Social Media
  • Research
  • Learning Styles
  • Types of Stress, Healthy Coping Skills
  • Persuasive Presentations
  • Power of Gratitude
  • Setting Boundaries with Digital Media
  • Holland Code Personality Style
  • Authentic Friendships
  • SMART Goals

8th Grade Lessons

  • Time Management/Priorities
  • Recognizing Individual Strengths
  • Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship
  • Research
  • Designing Professional Presentations
  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Identifying Personal Interests, Skills
  • Individual v. Team Success (Roles)
  • Email Organization and Professional Communication
  • Digital Media, Mental Health
  • Peer Pressure
  • Morton Public Library Presentation
  • Identifying and Planning Service Opportunities
  • Digital Footprint
  • Healthy Relationships and Boundaries
  • Impact of Habits on Future
  • Living a Life of Mission based on Values
  • Grit Game Plan
  • Future Vision
  • SMART Goals

Morton Junior High School returns to the classroom on August 11, 2022.

6th-grade orientation is typically held the afternoon before the first day of school. Please call the office to confirm the date and time of orientation: (309) 263-2581.