In my day (and I assume many of you reading this as well) I never thought about online safety, back to school just meant a few new clothes, some PF Flyers, a few pencils, a Trapper Keeper, and a ream of loose-leaf paper. Maybe a ruler and some scissors as well. Oh, how times have changed. Technology is moving on a bullet train faster than most of us parents, as well as lawmakers and educators can keep up. Now we worry about smartphones in school, iPads, iPods, inappropriate texting and Facebook IM’ing, just to name a few. We’re even seeing some social networking laws like the one that just passed in Missouri, basically barring teachers from communicatiing with students outside the school system.
The legislation is vague, causing some confusion and even a lawsuit attacking the constitutionality of the law, but it is a concern nonetheless. At home, we can lay down the ground rules, set up parameters, and even utilize parental control software like littleye. But how can we make sure that the protection we are providing at home carries over to school?
Well, you can start with these 5 tips on preparing you and your child for back to school and online safety.
- Reinforce your guidelines at home. By being strong with your household Internet use rules it is more likely that those practices will carry over to school as well. Also, if you have young children, make sure that you communicate with their teachers on what is expected of them at home.
- Know what technology the students will have access to. Some schools will have desktop computers, some will have iPads or laptops which are utilized as part of the curriculum. By knowing what technology will be used, you’ll be more able to help your child make better decisions online.
- Familiarize yourself with the school’s Internet policies. Does the school have a cyberbullying policy? Like the district mentioned above, is there a policy on student/teacher interaction on social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace? What are the school’s rules on mobile devices in the classroom? Does the school filter the Internet?
- Teach your kids that not everything they read online is the truth. This tip can apply to many different avenues, both in personal attacks as well as school based research. It is important for kids to know that sites such as Wikipedia, or even Facebook cannot be considered trusted research sources and should only be used sparingly, possibly to kickstart further research.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Nothing is more important than an open communication between you and your child. This also goes for a strong line of dialogue between parents and teachers as well.
Here’s wishing you and your child a safe and successful back to school transition!
by Grant Stoner