Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cultivating Online Safety with Proactive Parents and Schools


Source: National PTA One Voice Blog


The internet can be a wonderful tool to learn and explore new concepts, as well as a way to connect with people and cultures far away. However, we also know that the internet can be a serious source of distraction and danger, especially for its youngest users. These risks are why setting boundaries and encouraging balance for online use is so important.

Parents often feel overwhelmed by the drama that seems to accompany the technology in kids’ back pockets. And they’re certainly not blowing the issue out of proportion. A 2016 Common Sense Media study found that a whopping 50% of teens feel addicted to their phones, and one-third of families reported fighting about negative effects of phone use daily.

We Are Not Powerless
But rest assured, as parents and educators, we are not powerless in the fight to help our kids become healthy, well-adjusted adults with actual social skills beyond Snapchat. In fact, research shows that we can make a huge difference in our kids being able to navigate the online world well, especially when it comes to helping with conflict resolution. In a 2015 CNN documentary, sociologist Robert Faris, a school bullying and youth aggression researcher says, “Parent monitoring effectively erased the negative effects of online conflicts.”

Engagement is Key
Most parents I’ve talked to want to do a better job setting boundaries and talking to their kids about online safety, but they sometimes don’t know where to start. One tool we recommend is an online resource called The Smart Talk. It’s an interactive tool that families can use to set boundaries in “stone” and talk about what responsible tech use in their home should look like. We’ve found it to be a great template to cover several online safety topics as a family, and it really assists you in unearthing your own values regarding technology as you work through it. It doesn’t just help you create a contract, it helps create conversation.




Working Together: Parents & Schools
Online drama affects schools and homes alike. That’s why it’s so important to find ways we can work together to build healthy structures and expectations for kids’ online activity. Sometimes we only respond when a negative situation blows up, but if we can make the switch to become proactive in our school communities, we will be better able to prepare kids to make good choices online. One proactive strategy is to plan a PTA event for National Safer Internet Day, Tuesday, Feb. 6. This is a great way to foster community and discuss strategies to keep kids safe online!


Seize the Day
We’ve often heard the distance between Kindergarten and Senior year is one blink—it goes by quickly. With technology evolving every day, and our kids growing up in the blink of an eye, it’s time for us to seize the day in developing strategies for internet safety, both at home and in our schools. Let’s work together to proactively teach our kids that boundaries and balance online are crucial to their successful futures.


Sarah Siegand is an author and co-founder of Parents Who Fight, an online safety campaign to give parents tools and encouragement to protect their kids online. She is a member of her local PTA in Nashville, TN.






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