Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Talk to Your Kids about Internet Safety

This post is going to be a bit more personal than other ones we have written because of the topic-internet safety. I am a mother of 2 children, a   daughter and a 10-year-old son who LOVES to play on his PS4. At first, the notion that my child can be playing games with anyone in the world, at any time, freaked me out and I work in the world of technology. In the classroom, I always embraced the idea of seeing my students have opportunities to connect with like-minded people who could challenge their thinking, dig deeper into their thought process and have a more meaningful authentic learning experience. I truly believe the best ways for our students, and even my own children, to learn internet/online safety is to give them opportunities.

While we set up my son’s account, and you better believe we did this together, I talked through and modeled the process of setting up his account. We used a fun screen name...not his real name. We used his personal email that is attached to mine so anything done with his account/email is linked on my phone. By the way, I don’t see this as being a hovering or “helicopter” mom. I see this as a way of me knowing what he is doing so I can openly discuss his usage.

  • Finding friends: We talked about who he can and cannot friend on the gaming system and how to determine whether it was his friend’s account and not someone else’s.
  • Interacting with gamers: We chatted about what is appropriate talk online with friends. For example, the games he plays you either want to help each other as a team or maybe do some trash talk...but you have to keep it clean and fun.
  • Communicating with unknown gamers: I knew there are open games within the PS4 world and anyone can be playing in the same game as him. So, we did discuss what topics are ok to discuss with the “stranger” and information to not share with the person.
    • Information to NOT share with a stranger...it’s your full name, address, school, and phone number.
  • Strategies for when you feel uncomfortable: We also talked about if he was in a situation that made him uncomfortable. You either
    • Do not to answer any more questions
    • Ignore the conversation/person
    • Leave the game.
  • Online Predators: I did have the hard conversation in regards to people who try to contact young kids who do want to try and have inappropriate online relationships. I did not go into depth with that topic, however, I wanted him to know there are reasons for keeping the information a secret and protecting yourself.

Friends, it got real! One morning he came down and asked to talk about something. He began telling me about a person who was in his game that he did not know. The person kept asking questions. It was the typical questions of what’s your name, where do you live, what grade are you in and so on. My son told me he began having an uncomfortable feeling about the person. Yes, my heart was sinking, but I had a sense of relief that I had already had the conversation and hoped he remembered our talking points. I asked him what his responses were and he emphasized he only shared his first name and the state he lives in. He continued telling me that since he was not feeling comfortable about it, he decided to leave the game and delete the friend request. *Proud “Mom” moment. I sang his praise and told him he did what was best. I reflected later on and told myself that I was happy we had those previous conversations because he knew what to do. I just wonder what could have happened or developed had I not talked to him. Now I will tell you my other child is 5, who uses my phone, a Kindle Fire, iPad and computer to play games and can navigate through the various apps like a champ. Our conversations are a bit different now, but she will also learn early on about appropriate online use.

Parents and teachers, we have to monitor what our students are doing and who they are communicating with frequently. Please do not assume they are going to tell you. Take these tips and use them with your family and in your classroom.
  • Offer opportunities for students to practice online conversations on safe websites and gaming systems.  Here are a couple of links that lists some popular apps that our students are recently using.
  • Determine who is appropriate to friend and appropriate topics to discuss.
  • Remind your child to not share private information with people they do not know.
  • Discuss ways to avoid or get out of a situation that makes them uncomfortable
    • Ignore the person
    • Leave the conversation
    • Block the person
  • Look for some possible warning signs of inappropriate online relationships
    • Child seems withdrawn
    • Child spends many hours online
    • Appears to be hiding something.

These conversations can happen anytime. Start by asking how much time they spend online. You may be surprised as to how much time they are online.  Ask them what they do online. Ask your students who they talk to. As adults, we cannot ignore the topic, but be open to talking so our children and students know.  

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