Online Safety and Parent Resources*
Is technology safe for your child?
As educators and parents, it is difficult to monitor the Internet practices of our students and children. However we can work diligently to help them make good choices. We can use teachable moments to compare media content and messages to our values as educators and families. Examples of these types of media content are TV commercials or shows, viewing a website, movie or discussing the lyrics to a song.
Online digital safety is an important concept that educators and parents can discuss with students and children frequently no matter what grade level they are in. Experts warn that children are most vulnerable to online dangers while in their own home and not at school. While many potential dangers are filtered so students can’t access them at schools, parents sometimes forget that children may have direct access to inappropriate sites at home. The following site acts as a guide for parents which discusses the following: technology and screen addictions, cyberbullying, digital footprints, social networking sites, age-inappropriate content and sexting, online gaming and many other resources. Internet Safety 101
What can parents do to keep their children safe?
Install software to filter and block inappropriate content on your home computer.
St. Francis Area Schools uses content filters to keep students safe and to comply with federal law. Filters can be set to block Internet access completely or block certain sites such as pornography, social media and gaming. Further, filters allow a parent to completely control when access is open/closed to such sites. Without any filtering software at home, a user can get to any site on any device, including a desktop computer.
Some possible filters to consider include OpenDNS, SafeEyes and NetNanny. A short, two-minute instructional video is available describing how easy this is to do with the free OpenDNS. If you have a newer computer with Microsoft Windows or Mac Snow Leopard, software is built into the operating system. It’s called Parental Controls and there is no need to buy anything else.
Take the time to set up content filters for your children. Children are naturally curious and won’t filter for themselves. Viewing portrayals of risky behavior can make it seem “normal.” Often the reality of negative consequences is left out, leaving children with a skewed impression of normal standards of behavior as well as unresolved questions and emotions about the implications of explicit content that they don’t fully grasp.
Other Filters to Consider
Cell phone providers offer filtering services that parents can choose to activate. To learn more, simply Google your service provider with the words “parental controls.” You can filter text messages as well as websites your child can access through their phone. There are also services you can purchase that will help you filter your child’s phone such as SafeEyes and NetNanny. Some phone companies, like Kajeet, specifically offer filtered phones for children with a variety of additional control options. TV cable companies offer filtering services as well. Again, simply Google your provider to learn how to access these features.
Tips for Parents
- Maintain open communication with your child about technology use. Ask to get a tour of the sites your child visits.
- Proactively set guidelines for computer use at your house, as well as when they are with friends. Print, discuss and sign a Common Sense Family Media Agreement.
- Know your child’s passwords. This enables you to gain access to their email, social networking sites, etc., in case of an emergency.
- Tech 101 Videos: Learn about Teens and Tech, Safe Searching and more
- Google family members to be aware of your cyber footprint online. Set up a Google Alert for each family member for free.
- How do social networks operate? While the Internet is an incredible resource with countless educational opportunities, there are also frightening dangers that children can get involved in or be exposed to online. Pornography is often just a click. Social networking sites such as Facebook for teens (Webkinz and Club Penguin for younger students) are a popular way to connect with friends and meet new people, but these sites are mostly unsupervised and may push limits and test boundaries. Watch Social Networking in Plain English to understand how social networks operate. Videos on YouTube and similar sites with live web cams allow children to be creative and share all sorts of content, some of which may be inappropriate or unwise to publish.
- Cyberbullying (threatening or harassing another individual through technology), is a growing concern for today’s youth. It takes many forms, such as forwarding a private email, photo or text message for others to see, starting a rumor or sending a threatening or aggressive message, often anonymously. Talk with your child about not partaking in this behavior and encourage them to report it to an adult. Some videos online to help children understand this include Ad Council Commercials Talent Show (elementary and middle school students) or Kitchen (high school students), as well as NetSmartz.org’s videos on Broken Friendship (secondary students) or You Can’t Take It Back (secondary students). ThatsNotCool.com is a good resource about textual harassment and sexting.
Anything we do or post online creates a digital record, often called a “digital footprint.” Nothing online is totally private, even if you intend it to be. Once digitized, it can be saved, sent and reposted elsewhere.
A good rule of thumb: If you don’t want a parent, teacher, principal, future employer or college admissions office to know something, don’t post it online.
Internet Safety Resources for Parents
- Common Sense Media has great reviews of movies, music, apps, video games and more. Sign up for their weekly newsletter to stay in the loop of the latest teen tech trends.
- Essential Teen Internet Safety Guide has many great tips for parents and teens in regards to safe internet practices.
- Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. This guide published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers parents practical, developmental targeted tips to guide their children in navigating the online world.
- Don’t Be Hacked or Tracked has 13 great and easy to implement practices.
- Online Safety for Children and Teens: A Comprehensive Guide to Staying Safe Online. This site covers online safety for students, what dangers your child encounters online, online safety basics for children, online safety for tweens, online safety for teens and beyond online safety.
- iKeepSafe.org — Be A Pro Parent, the iKeepSafe BEaPRO™ Parent Safety Index report identifies the six core competencies. The six Pillars of Digital Citizenship and Wellness, that keep children safe online in our digitally connected culture are: balance, ethics, privacy, reputation, relationships and online security.
- McGruff Online Safety for Kids — Online safety interactive
- PBS Parenting in an Internet Age — A discussion on parenting in the digital age from a panel of experts
- Net Smartz — This site has many links to digital topics such as blogging, sexting, cell phones, identity theft and more. It provides tips for parents and conversation starters.
- Wired Safety Website’s (WiredSafety.org) work falls into five major areas:
- Help and support for victim of cybercrime and harassment
- Advice, training and help for law enforcement worldwide on preventing, spotting and investigating cybercrimes
- Education for children, parents, communities, law enforcement and educators
- Information and awareness on all aspects of online safety, privacy, responsible use and security
- Resources that can be downloaded or printed and used for offline presentations, community events and classroom activities
- Parry Aftab is one of the leading experts worldwide on cybercrime, Internet privacy and cyber-abuse issues.
*Source: The Cambridge-Isanti School District website
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