In recognition of Internet Safety Week, St. John’s parents were invited to a presentation on Thursday, February 13th in the middle/high school library. A representative from Child Focus spoke to us about how crucial parental involvement is when it comes to our children and the internet. Their belief is that active guidance is needed from parents and educators to empower children and teens to make the right decisions regarding their online behavior.
It’s important to build confidence in our children that the parent is the right person to come to when they come across issues/sites/chats that make them uncomfortable or are against family values. This can be done by showing interest in what your children are doing online, actually playing the games yourself, and having discussions about coping strategies. Nadège, our presenter, stressed that our children need to know we are a trustworthy person to come to and that we won’t unfairly judge their actions.
Our children are growing up in a digital world. A world very different from the childhood that we experienced. Together, with our children, we need to set boundaries and limits that both groups agree on based on the site, game, etc. Parental controls set up on the computer will never replace active parental guidance because there are so many different venues where our children and teens can access the internet (friend’s house, iPods, school computers, etc). If our children employ critical thinking skills and have conversations with us as parents, they can make better decisions when they aren’t in our care/house.
The presenter also spoke about the serious aspect of cyber bullying. She said most parents underestimate the depth of cyber bullying because 70% of children between the ages of 9 – 16 are cyber bullied. In most scenarios, there is the perpetrator/bully, the victim, and then everyone else who become part of it just from being around the situation. Bystanders need to be encouraged to report the undesired behavior to the school, the social networking site, to their parents, etc. Often if a child is being bullied, the parent will observe radical changes in their child as a sign something is wrong. St. John’s is working on adopting a bullying policy to help break the cycle.
Child Focus has set up a confidential help hotline for parents, students, and educators to speak with trained professionals about internet safety, cyber bullying, and issues related to online behavior. You can call 116000, visit their website: www.clicksafe.be, or email them at clickhelp@childfocus. org. Together, we can make the internet a safer place.
By Gretchen Morrison, Elementary School parent