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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.

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