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Online Safety for Students

By Mrs. Wendy Durrance, Lower School Counselor/Schoolwide Testing Coordinator
It seems that every month or so there is a new internet challenge circulating, some that are silly, and some more sinister in nature. Trends and viral challenges can be tempting for children to take part in, no matter how dangerous or scary they may seem.
 
There have been recent media reports that some seemingly innocent videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids (such as ‘surprise eggs,’ unboxing videos, and Minecraft or Fortnite videos) have been edited to include violence provoking messages and/or other inappropriate content. Even though YouTube monitors and removes videos that include inappropriate content, clips can be uploaded and viewed thousands of times before they get reported and removed. As a parent, it is difficult to spot these videos, as the harmful content may not appear until halfway through the video. Furthermore, YouTube has an ‘up next’ feature which automatically starts playing another video based on the video just watched.
 
While technology can be a wonderful resource for your children, it is ever changing, and as a parent/guardian it is crucial that you remain fully aware of the apps, games, and videos your child is accessing. Although I know you all are very busy with nighttime routines, cooking dinner, homework, etc., please make a concerted effort to be present when your child is online. This will give you a greater understanding of what they are doing on their devices, as well as providing you with the opportunity to discuss, support, and stop certain activities that your child may be involved in. It will also provide you with insight into the ways your child is interacting with their friends and other peers.
 
Although most parents I speak to report that they utilize parental controls on their devices, now may be a good time to double check that none of those settings have been changed or updated. For example, check your YouTube app and make sure that you have turned off the ‘suggested auto-play’ on videos to stop your child from viewing content they have not directly selected, or block certain accounts/content to prevent your child from viewing it.
 
Parents/guardians are encouraged to remain engaged and vigilant at all times regarding the online content that their children view. It is important to have an ongoing conversation about social media and digital footprints. The American Academy of Pediatrics released findings from a comprehensive study on the impact of social media on students and families. More information on the study and tips for monitoring students’ social media can be found at: https://www.parenting.com/gallery/social-media-monitoring-kids. Here are several other helpful links that offer advice and assistance: https://www.safesearchkids.com/ and https://childmind.org/article/media-guidelines-for-kids-of-all-ages/. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me. It takes a village to raise a child. The more we communicate, the better the learning experience for our students.
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