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We refer to the current generation (18 and younger) as digital natives because they have been born into technology and their understanding of it is complete. Parenting a digital native is a very difficult task because technology is far-reaching, powerful, and everywhere. In past generations you could ground your student to the house with confidence that under your surveillance they would not get in trouble. However, in this age of cell phones and tablet devices your child could get themselves in a great deal of trouble without stepping foot outside their bedroom door. Below are some facts and tips for keeping your kid safe.
While schools have historically tried their best to keep social media outside of the school building, it is clear this is a battle we can not win. In order to protect our students, we need to partner with parents to help them develop methods and strategies for keeping kids safe online. Below are some facts and tips for getting the conversation started with the parents of your students.
- Take part in your student’s online life. If your child has a Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter page then so should you. Require them to “friend you.” Just as you are involved in shaping your child in the real world, you also need to help them form their digital image.
- Keep track of your child’s internet and cell phone (texting) history. Many parents believe this is a violation of privacy, but kids are more likely to text or post things inappropriate if they don’t believe an adult will find out. Be honest with your kids before you hand them the phone for the first time so they know they will be monitored.
- Cyber and sexual predators are better at their craft today than at any other point in history. They are using the internet to collaborate, share tips, and pictures/videos of victims. The three main tools used by sexual predators are attention, affection, and gifts - especially cigarettes.
- In many cases, a cyber predator will attain a single inappropriate picture of a victim by acting as a peer online. The predator will then threaten to reveal the picture to the victim’s parents, friends, or school mates if they don’t do exactly what they request.
- Teach your student to be skeptical of internet information. Most internet sites tend to look the same - professional and informative. Kids need to question the facts on internet sites and not take them as factual. Anyone online can pose as a doctor and give dangerous advice.
- It probably comes as no surprise that the most common communication device for teenagers is texting. The average teenager sends 2000 texts a month. Research has shown that student who send more than 3000 texts per month (hypertexting)are also more likely to try drugs, alcohol, and sex.
- Cyberbullying is defined as willful and repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text. Cyberbullying victims are more likely to tell an online friend that they are being bullied. As a parent you should: know your child’s online friends, expect no information, watch for mood changes (difficult with teenagers), not step in and do something without your child’s permission, make a plan for what to do if/when bullying happens, emphasize strategy instead of advice, and use the school as your ally.