Karen Reiber, WMS Media/Technology Specialist
With the New Year comes new devices and over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of excitement in the hallways before and after school as students with new devices have started to connect, share and learn with their devices.
Students today are not limited by the four classroom walls, they have the capability to connect and collaborate with peers not in their physical class, with experts in our Wyoming community and around the world. The possibilities are endless with their new technology to have their voices heard and make a difference in the world. Wyoming teachers and staff are here to help our students and we want to be a partner with parents as we teach our students the ins and outs of social media, using the internet and becoming a responsible digital citizen. Check out this article: 5 Reasons Why You Do Not Have To Worry About Your Kids and Social Media
Whether the devices are new or old it is always good to have continuing conversations about your expectations, acceptable behavior both on mobile devices and computers. It cannot be the “one and done talk” because you have to remember tweens and teens brains are not fully developed and they will need your guidance and opportunities to dialog with you frequently.
The conversation might start with—with great power comes great responsibility! Students might not even be fully aware of just how quickly and how far reaching something from their phone could affect them or others. Pew Institute cites just how connected our teens are today, in their report, Teens and Technology 2013:
- 78% teens have cell phones—about half of those are smartphones (47%)
- 23% teens have a tablet computer
- 93% teens have a computer or have access to one at home
Our students in Wyoming School District are at or above these statistics—they are very well connected. As parents we need to have open communication and monitor the usage of digital devices. Here are some ideas on where to get started:
- You can install parental controls with your mobile carriers (for a small monthly fee but they are limited) but in the long run it may be better to have parental trust with open dialogue.
- Computers and devices with access to the internet should be in a “family space or public space” where students can be monitored. No computers or mobile devices in bedrooms—this often gives children “opportunity.”
- Devices should charge in a family space or public space and NOT in their bedroom.
- Become knowledgeable about social media sites. Discuss what apps your children are using, ask them to share with you how they work. Some students in our district have social apps on their phones that are not age appropriate. The industry devises guidelines for apps so that your children’s photos and information are safeguarded. Having these apps/sites that are not adhering to the age guidelines is breaking the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Here is a sampling of age restrictions:
- Must be over the age of 13 to use: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Ask.fm, ooVoo
- Must be at least 16 to use: WhatsApp
- Must be over the age of 17+ or 18: Whisper, Yik Yak, Vine, Kik, Burn Note, Afterschool
- For specifics on some of these sites/apps check out this Common Sense Media Article, 15 Sites and Apps Kids are Heading to Beyond Facebook.
- Ask about privacy settings—help them set privacy and location settings. Use nicknames and avatars. Avatars that students create can take the place of their picture online. Also talk about what kind of information is private, remind your child that a friend today might not be a friend tomorrow, and whatever they might share with their friend might be shared beyond that friend.
- You may want to see how your child is handling text conversations or emails. You may want to make random checks on their devices.
- Remind your child that online is forever—you cannot take back what you post or publish. This would be a great time to talk about their Digital Footprint and how it might affect their future.
- Watch/read the news and start conversations with—“I saw in the news…..Cyberbullying, Sexting, Predators…” then give them your expectations and/or allow them to talk about their concerns.
- Have a conversation on sexting. Discuss with your children why do they think sexting occurs? Healthy relationships do not contain sexting. Remember inappropriate pictures/language are often shared through social media apps (Instagram/Snapchat) and websites not just by texting.
- Have ongoing conversations—let your child know that it is always okay to share with you anything they might feel uncomfortable about and let you help them figure it out! Some of the best conversations I had with my kids was when they were in the car with me or out on a walk.
- Have conversations with other parents. Our community wants to keep our children safe and other parents are struggling with the same issues. Start off with, “how are your kids handling…”
- Your child might not be involved in risky online behavior but they might be exposed through their peers, so keep communication lines open.
- Engage in non-technology time at home and encourage face-to-face time with friends.
- Be a good role model—I can’t stress this enough—your child will be very observant of your online behavior. Don’t be texting over meals or while driving etc. I call this being “present in the moment.” If you need to text during a board game—be transparent—“I need to text my place of work” or “my sister is texting me—I will get back to her when we are done.” These lessons are important to teach your children when it is necessary to get back to someone and when it can wait.
- Be observant of your child’s behavior—if you notice changes in mood or in school grades–open the lines of communication and seek outside help as needed.
- Other consequences: a negative digital footprint might keep your children from scholarships, colleges and jobs. Give them some real examples.
- Lay down clear ground rules for your child based on your family values.
- Your number one conversation with your children should be that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should they ever meet up with someone online or someone that is not a face-to-face friend.
- State the consequences for breaking your rules. Remember the phone is in your name, you need to know how the phone is being used.
- Encourage all parents to visit Common Sense Media, sign up for their free newsletter. This site reviews books, movies, video games, music, apps and websites for all ages. They recommend great websites and apps for education.
- Caroline Knorr, Senior Parenting Editor for Common Sense Media Blog states, “Parents who are actively involved in their kids’ media lives help them to consume less, make better choices, learn and understand more of what their interacting with.”
In every class I have with students I always tell them I am giving information to make them good consumers and responsible digital citizens and they need to talk with parents to see what guidelines you have for them. Please know that here in the Wyoming City School District we will continue to take time to teach our students how to be good digital citizens, promote positive communication, so that our students continue to have positive digital footprints but this has to be a joint effort between home and school.
If you have questions or concerns please feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Media Task Force has just started up a Wiki — check out the resources that they have found and posted.