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Internet Safety

Untangling Wired Children

practical advice on digital devices

 

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08.31.2015
by PTA Staff

As our children approach middle school, many will be asking for a device (cell phone, iPad, laptop) if they don’t already have one. In fact, our upper grades at Howard Drive Elementary School (HDE) have already held bring-your-own-technology days so students can participate in digital classroom activities. While we’re witnessing one of the most exciting times in education as it merges with technology, we’re among the first generation of parents to deal with how to manage digital technology with our children. A new device in the family is a happy addition, however, it requires that parents do their homework. If you plan to allow your child to have a smartphone or other device, be prepared to take on the responsibility of monitoring their digital footprint.

“The key is monitoring EVERYTHING!! Parents need to be informed and the kids need to be informed,” says Laura Metka, HDE PTA VP of Fundraising and mother of three.

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First and foremost, with any new device, it is important to have a discussion with children about their safety, behavior and limits when using technology. Also important, review parental locks and view recent activity to know what children have looked at, posted and subscribed to.

“Devices are fun until someone gets hurt. If you’re hosting a sleepover, be sure to collect devices before the end of the night,” says Monica Smith, HDE PTA VP of Legislation and mother of two.

Kids love to make videos and take silly pictures and post them for the world to see. But there are certain safety concerns with regard to posting visual data. Stress that your kids avoid posting intimate details. An innocent video where a child says his or her name while wearing a school uniform could put a child at risk, says Ismary Garcia, PTA Fifth Grade Chair and mother of two. Also consider the inappropriateness or social dynamics of pictures with friends, as others may feel left out and develop hard feelings, she warns.

Elementary school children lack the maturity needed to be able to handle the responsibilities of social media sites, so many parents disallow their use until later years, if at all.

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“My sister has a middle schooler and a high-schooler and social media can be a really big distraction as her kids are constantly checking to see who liked what and who posted or retweeted this or that. Social media is also a virtual space where children feel comfortable saying things they wouldn’t normally say in person. This makes things like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc., ripe environments for bullying, and it happens more often than you’d think,” says Smith.

It is difficult to stay ahead of this generation, but we must do so to be able to protect them and offer them the best of technology to further their education, having said that, Metka insists that all parental controls should be used at all times on any device.

“Be aware of any way that they may access the Internet, i.e., through Facebook through your TV, through your phone, or their devices. Kids are smarter than we are with technology,” sums up Metka.

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Howard Drive Elementary will host a special Internet Safety Workshop on September 15, at 6:00 p.m. Come learn about the positive and negative aspects of digital devices in and outside of school. Speakers from Miami Dade County Public Schools, Miami-Dade Public Library, and Palmetto Bay Police Department will help you navigate the best route during this exciting age of technology for our children.

 

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10 Device Tips

Here are 10 practical tips for parents to stay one step ahead of our new “wired” generation:

  • Confiscate all technology before bed; do not allow children to go to their rooms with their devices for the night.
  • Only allow children to use technology in public spaces.
  • Check history often and without your child knowing when.
  • Limit social media sites, and monitor them if you allow them at all.
  • Do not allow children to add apps without your permission.
  • Make a technology-free zone like the dinner table.
  • Limit the amount of time spent on technology.
  • Add your child to your iTunes account so you control purchases.
  • Apps that may help: MamaBear, NetNanny, Life360, TeenSafe.
  • Go to netsmartz.org/Parents for even more tips.

 

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