Glass Half Full: Social media, digital safety measures for parents
November 19, 2014
Someone remarked to me recently that children are remarkably savvy about how to use technology, yet they remain remarkably naive about so much of its use.
I agree. The easiest way to figure out how to do something with a computer or an iPad is to ask a student; however, we constantly run into situations in which students take paths that lead them in unexpected directions on unchartered courses.
It's easy to find blame for their choices: iPads, cell phones, laptops, media. The fact is, we are all responsible for helping our children navigate waters that frequently are new and unexpected to us.
Research from limitless sources indicates quite clearly that the 21st century belongs to those who utilize new technologies comfortably.
As adults who are usually digital immigrants, not digital natives like our children, the struggle can be even to consider many of the challenges confronting our children.
There is nothing automatically wrong with children or with parents. In looking for an analogy, the closest thing I can suggest is that the training wheels are off the bikes several years earlier than they used to be, and our kiddos frequently are hurtling down the road without safety helmets.
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It's our job, as parents, to find and place those helmets firmly on their little heads.
These are the safety measures I urge all parents to adapt, with frequent repetitions:
If you feel you must provide your child with a cell phone (and I suggest that most cell phone distribution is for the convenience of parents, not really the safety of children), limit the plan connected to that phone. Don't let them call or text the world.
Discuss (again and again) the power of written words and that nothing posted via any form of technology is anonymous.
Help children understand that language they might hear on TV or in the movies is frequently completely inappropriate to use personally. Reference the note above and suggest they never write something they would be embarrassed to have read aloud to their grandmothers.
Check their text, email, and website histories frequently.
Install WiFi restrictions at home that fit with your family values.
Remind them never to join a group whose members they don't know personally.
Stress (again and again) never to respond to any advertisements that offer free stuff and never to share their personal information on line.
When it's bedtime, take away all electronic devices. Seriously, it's shocking how many children post exchanges in the middle of the night. Remove that possibility.
Remember that there is a tremendous amount of good to be found in and through technology. To deny our children use of such is to restrict their futures.
Also remember that you are the adults in their lives. It's your job to keep them safe in ways that are reasonable.
Enjoy this time of discovery with them. Let them teach you at the same time you are teaching them.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.