Internet safety speaker shares tips for parents
The school system hosted Internet safety speaker Joe Coles on Wednesday as he spoke to fourth through twelfth graders about topics like cyberbullying, texting and social networks.
Coles also spoke at a community meeting Wednesday night, where he addressed ways parents can stay involved with their child’s online activities.
“The worst thing a parent can do technology-wise is tell their child ‘I don’t know anything about technology. You know more than I do,’” Coles said. “That is a red flag. You have to tell them, ‘I don’t know as much as you, but how do you do that?’ Show them you are learning and act interested.”
Coles said parents should monitor their child’s online and technological activities and create a plan for technology use.
“The best way to stay involved in what your child is doing online is to always make time to talk to them,” Coles said. “Face-to-face communication is a lost art. Show them you care. You can never care too much.”
Statistics show most teenagers spend three and a half minutes a day in a meaningful conversation with their parents, down from seven minutes a day just two years ago, Coles said.
“One way to get more time with your kids is to eat dinner together,” he said. “Studies prove that children who eat dinner with their family five times a week are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs. And a technology-free dinner is an even better idea. Just take 45 minutes away from your phones or computers to spend with each other.”
Coles said children who receive support from home are at a lower risk of bullying others, whether through technology or in person.
Other safety tips for parents are:
• Keep computers, cell phones and other technology out of an isolated area. Keep them in the family room, kitchen or other location where everyone spends time.
• Respect your child’s privacy online, but intervene if necessary.
• Talk to your children about cell phone usage and inform them everything they text or post online is there forever.
• Talk about what pictures are appropriate for social networks and texting.
• Be aware of their online activities.
• Inquire about filtering and parental control programs to install on your computer.
Coles said most children do not realize what they put online or text is permanently accessible to the public.
“I found out recently that cell phone companies can access every text that is sent from your phone number,” Coles said. “Everything you do with technology is public information.”
Sylacauga schools Technology Director Mike Robinson said the school system strives to stay ahead of any issues students may face with technology.
“We haven’t had any problems, but we are trying to be proactive, not reactive,” he said. “A lot of parents have good intentions to monitor what their child does, but staying on top of the current trends and changes can be hard.”
Robinson said students responded well to Coles’ presentations.
“A lot of their reaction was almost shock and awe,” he said. “They realized what they do with technology can affect other aspects of their life.”
Coles, who has visited the school system several times, said he is impressed with its effort to protect students from technology-related issues.
“You are very fortunate to be part of a school system that is proactive about these topics,” Coles said. “They care so much for your kids, and that is important because kids cannot learn if they do not feel safe and connected in school.”
Contact Emily Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.