Media Madness seminar – dealing with technology and kids

As first vice-president of our elementary Parent-Teacher Association, I am in charge of Parent Education. Any time I share with the parents something of interest, my goal is to share that information here.

This past week, I brought in a speaker to talk to the parents about managing their kids use of electronics. The presentation was called “Media Madness,” and it was presented through Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program. Our presenter was Larriann Curtis, the Vice President of Membership for Texas PTA.

It was a good presentation. I had heard some of the information before, but it is always good to be reminded of these things. Here is a recap of some of the information covered.

Children nowadays grow up in a different world than many of us grew up in. They are exposed to technology at a much younger age. In fact, they grow up with it. Their socialization, their communication and their playing centers around it.

The Internet is accessible at all times and from anywhere. And with it you have the world at your fingertips. But the concern is that you don’t know who is one the other end. You don’t know the person chatting with you as you play your video game. You don’t know the person responding to your comments on blogs.

Tip #1: Teach your child to question what they know about the people they meet online. How do you know who they are? Why do they want to give you this information? What do they want?

One thing it is hard for many people to understand is the persistence of the Internet. Whatever you post, whatever you do is out there forever. Even if you think you are posting on an app that only shows what you said for just 30 seconds before it disappears, nothing is safe. Someone can copy, paste and repost your message or image. This is incredibly true when sending naked or risqué photos to a boyfriend/girlfriend. Once broken up or when in a fight, those pictures may be shared or perhaps shared the instant you send them.

Tip #2: Teach your child to never share anything they wouldn’t want their parents, their grandmother, pastor or teacher to read/see.

One way to give a visual to your child about how hard it is to erase something from the Internet is to take a water bottle. Add some drink mix to it and then tell them to now remove that drink mix. No matter how many filters you run the water through some of the drink mix will always remain.

The Internet can be good – look at the wealth of information available – or bad – misinformation, cyber bullying, addictive.

Tip #3: Never let your child keep their phone, tablet or computer in their room after bedtime. Nothing good is ever communicated at night.

To ensure your privacy and that of your child, you need to actively change your settings on apps and websites. We need to remind them that social media and many sites on the Internet are businesses. If they aren’t selling something, we are the product. Our information, our demographics, are what they are collecting.

Tip #4: Discuss with your child about balancing media use, what sites are good to visit and what they can and cannot believe/trust on the Internet. This should be a continuing discussion.

And this last sentence was a theme throughout the presentation. All of our work as parents needs to be an ongoing one. We need to work on raising digital citizens who question what is presented. As technology advances, we need to keep up with it and keep up with educating our children about its uses and dangers.

Here are a few websites that she recommended parents check out.

www.netsmartz.org – This is put on by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It has tip sheets, videos, games, worksheets and resources for all ages.

www.commonsensemedia.org – This website reviews and offers “child friendly” ratings on the latest releases of movies, books, video games, music, apps, TV shows and websites.

www.cyberwise.org – A site for parents and teachers about online safety. It offers an e-newsletter.

www.ikeepsafe.org – Identifies the six pillars of Digital Citizenship and Wellness – balance, ethics, privacy, reputation, relationships and online security.

www.wiredsafety.org – Content for tweens, teens and parents about cyber bullying, sexting, online gambling and legislation.

www.connectsafely.org – The site has strong social media resources, tips and guides.

www.stopbullying.gov – This site offers a cyber bullying “Lifeline” call center, apps, tips and news for parents, teachers, and students.

Organizing PTA Parent-Education seminars

Part of my responsibility as first vice president of my daughter’s elementary school parent-teacher association (PTA) is to bring in speakers to help educate the parents. Last year, I brought a speaker on cyber-bullying. My goal this year was to bring in two different speakers.

One of the fifth-grade teachers at her school is also member-at-large for the Texas Parent-Teacher Association. For the past few years, he has given a speech about Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences at the annual statewide leadership conference. But he has always told those of us who attend from his school that we shouldn’t attend his speech as he can always give us that information at a different time.

Last year, I wanted to get him to give this speech at our school but I approached him in the middle of September and we couldn’t get anything planned before conferences started in the middle of October. Instead, I had to settle for him writing a two-sided flyer that gave parents tips. (Check out my post about it here.)

This year I approached Mr. Shelby in August, and we scheduled his speech for the end of September as conferences begin mid-October. As with any presentation, you can plan and advertise it but getting a full house is a different matter. I think even Mr. Shelby was worried about getting people to show up. We had 26 parents attend which nicely filled up our library tables but is a real small percentage of the parents who have children attending the school.

The main point of his presentation is that the parent-teacher conference is not the first time you should see your child’s grades. In our school district, you can go online and check grades on homework and tests plus there are always papers coming home. There really should be no surprises.

The parent-teacher conference is a time to work with the teacher in deciding what areas your child needs to work on. Even good kids have something that can challenge them or maybe there is something that can push them to achieve more.

The second speaker I plan to bring in will speak on children and internet safety. I will be going through the Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program since the CyberBullying one last year was so well done.

Internet safety is an important topic in our technology-driven society and with the ever changing technology and apps out there, I don’t think parents can attend too many of these talks. In fact the middle school just brought in someone from Homeland Security to talk about the same thing.

It was a good speech though most of the information covered was stuff that I have heard before. He recommended that you check your kids’ phones weekly. You should know who they are talking to just as you would want to know who their friends are if they were meeting with them in person.

He recommended the website netsmartz.org as a way for parents and kids to learn more about online safety and the dangers of posting information online. To report Cyber Bullying, he recommended Cybertipline.org. Both websites are hosted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

I’m looking forward to my January speaker and if he/she provides any useful websites or information, I will certainly write a post about it.

Anti-Bullying Seminar recap part II: Cyber-bullying

Last week, I wrote about a speaker I brought into my kids’ school. She addressed bullying in her presentation called, Don’t Stand By, Stand Up! It proved to be a good lecture and there was so much information that I had to break my recap into two posts. If you missed the first post where I addressed what bullying is, what signs to look for, and what students and parents can do about bullying, then click here to read it now.

Today, I will go over what she said about cyberbullying (using the Internet, cellphones or other technology to post messages or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person).

PrintWhile bullying, whether physical, social or emotional, happens while in the presence of a bully, cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Two other big difference is that cyberbullying can be done anonymously, and it is distributed quickly to a very wide audience. Deleting those inappropriate messages, texts and photos can be extremely difficult.

Types of Cyberbullying

  • Direct attacks sent to a child (harassment, put downs, rumors)
  • Cyberbullying by Proxy (using other to assist in bullying)
  • Vengeful Angel – sees themselves as righting wrongs or protecting others from the “bad guy”
  • Power Hungry or Revenge of the Nerds – anonymity gives them to power/control, may be a victim offline
  • Mean Girls – bully for entertainment, group admiration fuels them
  • Inadvertent Cyberbullying – role playing, anger response, joking around

Numbers very on how many kids are cyberbullied each year. But because social media is so prevalent in pre-teen and teenagers’ lives, there is a very good chance your child will be bullied online at some point.

Preventing Cyberbullying

  • Talk to your child about cyber bullying and the importance of reporting it
  • Have clear expectations about what they can post online and their privacy settings. As a parent, you should have access to their account and should occasionally review their online communication.
  • Learn about the sites they like and check out their devices.
  • Talk to you child about keeping passwords private (except from parents)
  • As a friend (or do it yourself) and “follow” your kids on social media (but beware that they may try to set up two accounts)

Make sure to explain the responsibility and cyber-ethics of going online to your teen but realize that many teens do find ways around your restrictions such as having two accounts or using someone else’s computer or phone to appear online.

What to Do if Cyberbullied

The best answer is to keep an accurate record of what happened. Take screen shots and use this evidence to report to web host and cell service providers, law enforcement if necessary and school administrators.

The key here is to Stop, Block and Tell. Don’t respond or forward messages, block the person and then have kids report the incident to their parents. Do not encourage your child to respond to the cyberbullies.

The problem with trying to stop cyberbullying is that schools have little control outside of the school. Many state legislatures are working of modifying their laws on bullying to better address cyberbullying. The State of Texas is working to pass “David’s Law,” a bill aimed at preventing and combatting cyberbullying by requiring school districts across the state to include cyberbullying in their district policies. If passed, the law would give school districts the ability to investigate off-campus events and collaborate with law enforcement on investigations.

Until there are better ways to track and stop cyberbullies, the best defense is educating parents and students. To find out more about cyberbulling and ways to prevent it, check out these internet sites.

Cyberwise.org

Cyberbullying.us

Stopcyberbullying.org

Getnetwise.org

Connectsafely.org