Cyber safety: Part 1 – Conversations are Key
When I took my first computer class in high school (in 1985!!!), I never dreamed that students would be using digital technology as they do today. Nor would I have believed that, in 2018, I’d be talking with 240 6th graders at Northley Middle School (Go Vikings!) about cybersafety, planning cybersafety programs for 1st graders at Chester Community Charter School – East, or talking with therapy clients in grade school who have been sexting. (Think the last two are extreme? Check out this article from last July in Education Week!)
Social media and other digital technologies are evolving at an astounding rate.
Trying to keep up with even the basics can be a daunting task for parents and professionals. But, we can’t afford to simply throw up our hands and mutter about “kids today” and their electronics. We have to learn as much as we can about technology, so that we understand the realities, choices, and challenges that today’s youth face.
What Doesn’t Work
Warning kids about online predators, bullies, and the potential consequences of sexting isn’t enough. It’s a developmental given that most kids will adopt an it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude.
Saying, “I’d better not find out that you have [insert forbidden behavior here]!” isn’t the solution, either. Instead, it practically guarantees that kids won’t talk about their experiences unless something really bad has happened – if they tell at all.
A Reality Check
Acting impulsively, imprudently, unkindly, and illegally in the digital world is clearly not just the province of youth, so we need to stop talking about it that way. In reality, plenty of ADULTS make very poor choices when using technology. We live in a country where:
So What Can We Do?
If we really want to help kids avoid the many hazards associated with social media, we have to have ongoing conversations with them. We need to consistently show them that their concerns will be taken seriously. We have to give them tools they can use to protect themselves from bullies and predators who excel at manipulation, harassment, and intimidation. We need to guide them as they learn how to problem-solve real-life situations. We also need to prove that the pro’s outweigh the con’s of them asking for help when they get into risky or socially complicated situations.
Here are some resources that can help make those conversations a little easier:
This is Just the Beginning …
There are so many more things to talk about when it comes to cybersafety. We’ll tackle additional topics in the coming months. Stay tuned!