Kids love technology, often times even more than their adult counterparts (which can make it hard to stay on top of what kids are doing online). My kids are still young but use technology to learn new things, play games, and connect with others. My nine-year-old likes to FaceTime his uncles and make videos with his iPod. My six-year-old learned how to tie his shoes in one afternoon by watching a YouTube video. My four year old just likes to watch movies and draw pictures.
Our biggest challenge right now is limiting the time they are using technology and making sure they are creative and active in other ways. But, I know there are many greater cyber safety concerns as they get older, which is why I recently attended a seminar on Kids and Cyber Safety at their school. Dave Eisenmann, Director of Instructional Technology and Media Services at Minnetonka Public Schools, spoke to the 5th-8th graders, and then later to parents who wanted to attend. Dave shared a tremendous amount of information and resources and I wanted to highlight a few that hit home for me.
Cyber Safety Tips for Parents and Teachers
As a person who works in social media and technology, I was happy to see this as Dave’s first point. It is important that all parents and teachers see that there are amazing things that kids are doing online. New ways to learn, new ways to connect, and for teachers and parents – new ways to teach.
One of the best ways to understand what your kids are doing online is to try to understand it yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting an account on Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Ask.fm, and so on, but at least Google it, read about it, and be aware of it.
Emphasize that Nothing is Private, and Everything is Permanent – There are many adults who need to be reminded of this too. But for teens thinking about college admissions and future careers, everything they post and say is an advertisement for their character and can affect their futures in ways they haven’t even imagined.
Common Sense Media
Dave offered tips, ideas, and links to over a hundred online resources (Dave said we could share them here). The most useful to our family so far has been the CommonSenseMedia.org app. When my kids ask me if they can watch a movie or TV show, play a video game, or download a new app, I can look it up first to see if it is appropriate for their age. The newsletters (which you can customize for your kids sex and age) also help you to stay on top of media trends. It is by far the best resource I have found for identifying what media is appropriate for your kids besides previewing it yourself.
An online resource is Staysafe.org’s guide on Internet Safety for Teens.