By Mrs. Wendy Durrance, Lower School Counselor/Schoolwide Testing Coordinator
The world is quickly changing with emerging new technologies, and it has resulted in childhood changing drastically for our students. Gone are the days of passing notes, waiting to see your friends the next morning to say something important, or making a phone call in the kitchen on a corded phone. Now our children communicate through sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Tik-Tok, and YouTube, at any given time, perhaps without you even knowing about it.
Students are obtaining tablets and cellphones at a younger age, therefore allowing them to have more independent access to internet usage. As a result, I encourage the ongoing conversation between you and your child about the implications of social media. Use this opportunity to get a sense of what they think regarding social media; you may be surprised by what they share with you.
As I mentioned in my last blog post regarding online safety, I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring that safety features are up to date on all household devices, and that you remain aware of what your child is being exposed to. Make sure you check all the safety and privacy features on the apps that your child is using, or might use. Ask them to show you which social media apps they use and what they like about them. Talk about how they use them and what makes them so engaging. Explain to them how they can use privacy settings to make sure only approved friends can see posts and images. Check if any of their apps have ‘geo-location’ enabled, sharing their location unintentionally. Show them how to report offensive comments or block people who upset them. Check ‘tagging’ settings so that when others are posting or sharing photos online, your child’s identity is not revealed without consent. Encourage your child to come and talk to you if they see anything that upsets them.
In a mobile age, children can’t be completely protected, even by the best privacy controls. Encourage your child to think carefully about the way they, and others, behave online, and discuss how they might deal with difficult situations. Remind them that people (their “friends”) may not always be who they say they are online. Discuss how this can create problems and educate them on the dangers of meeting anyone in the real world that they have only met online. Inform your child that even if they think their messages are private, words and images can always be captured and broadcast, especially when two friends are feuding.
Lastly, you may consider not allowing your child to use technology behind closed doors, or perhaps implement a rule that their devices must be in your possession before they go to sleep. I have had several students complain of being tired due to being up late on their phones or because they were receiving text messages and notifications at all hours of the night.
While I wish I could transport our children back to a simpler time, where playing outdoors with friends was more common than playing with them online, it is evident that we as parents and educators need to stay on top of the trends and know what our children are being exposed to. Like it or not, technology is an important and useful part of our modern world, and we all have an important role to play in helping our children and students develop safe, healthy habits. For additional information, please read https://www.waituntil8th.org/why-wait