It may not surprise parents and teachers that social media use among middle schoolers and teens is growing. Yet, many of us struggle to make sense of what our kids are doing online. We don’t understand what the fuss is about, and can’t seem to keep up with all the new apps and tools that are popping up. Often teens are more savvy than we might give them credit for. Common Sense Media, a website offering expert, parent and child reviews of technological entertainment, reports that 72% of teens believe that companies manipulate users into spending more time on their devices.
Teaching our children about digital citizenship is a 24/7 job. It is important to discuss appropriate use of technology, and to engage in honest conversation about the possible consequences of online actions. Adults must do more than mitigate risk, don’t just set it and forget it. Supervision in today’s digital age means guiding a student every step of the way by helping them understand: responsible technology usage, how it affects their privacy, how they can protect themselves from unwanted intrusion or interaction, and that they should carefully reflect on their personal online presence.
- Dialogue with children about responsible ways to use email, chat, text, and social media.
- Develop a Responsible Use Plan for your family, create rules and set limits about the use of cell phones and other wireless devices. Be ready to model the family rules.
- Create a cell phone contract with your child.
- Visit social networking websites with your kids.
- Encourage children to THINK before posting. Is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind?
- Utilize built-in device controls and other safety tools to restrict access.
- Review how to create a safe profile. Identifying information such as full name, address, e-mail address, phone number, and school name should never be included when creating a profile or post.
- Encourage children to ‘connect’ only with people they know in real life.
- Check your child’s privacy settings frequently.
- Never allow your child to post their cell phone number online.
- Talk to your kids about how online posts and messages cannot be ‘taken back.' Once online, always online. There is no guarantee of privacy.
- Talk about what kinds of images are appropriate to post.
- Visit their list of age-appropriate social media sites for children under the age of 13.
- Friend and follow your children on all of their social accounts.
- Have children use devices in open family spaces where they can be supervised.
- Shut down or lock Wi-Fi access at night. Charge devices in a space where children are unlikely to get them during the night.
- Utilize restrictions built into devices to prevent or limit internet access.
- Disable unneeded location services or GPS settings on cell phones and other devices.
- Check their browser history on a frequent basis.
- Utilize family accounts to monitor what apps your students are downloading to their devices.
- Restrict social media apps and sites from school technology to reduce homework distractions.
- Create a cell phone parking lot. Have students place cell phones in the parking lot while working on homework.
Encourage self-reflection about digital identities with questions, such as:
- What is a digital footprint?
- What is the difference between an active and passive footprint?
- How can you make sure your digital footprint represents you?
- How do others contribute to your footprint?
- If an adult could see all of your online posts and messages, what would they like and what would they dislike? Why?
- Why use social media in the first place?
- How can you use social media to ‘Do Good’?
- Share articles you read or stories you hear, and ask your child, what would you do?
Finally, recognize that children will make mistakes online. Talk openly about mistakes and who they can go to for help.
At Shorecrest, our Technology program spans from the 3, 4, and 5-year-olds of The Experiential School to our tech-savvy college bound seniors. Technology at Shorecrest is more than just state-of-the-art devices, but also thoughtfully integrated education on using those devices for both students and families. Visit us on campus to learn more about Technology at Shorecrest, an Apple Distinguished School.