As much as I preach digital citizenship in the classroom setting, it’s becoming more and more apparent I have to do my due diligence as a parent as well. As a teacher, I try to instruct my students about appropriate etiquette online, being wary of “fake news” and scams/phishing, and increasing their privacy.
This became ever apparent as my daughter begged and begged to allow a download of an app. Since I’m not ready to let her have her own phone, I agreed to put the app on my phone. Of course, the next morning I turned on my phone an realized I had 5 new followers. WHAT?
My 9 year old daughter was savvy enough to already know the social media app’s settings, so registered an account, gave herself a cute little nickname, took a picture for a profile, and had 6 posts. This happened quite literally in front of my face without me truly understanding how quickly she managed it. I mean, she’s 9, how could she possibly get all that done while literally sitting in front of me? Well, guess what, she’s more knowledgeable than me, and twice as fast. Time for some tech parenting.
This may seem ridiculous that I’m making this post. Please don’t roll your eyes and say, “You are a teacher, certainly you were already aware of potential risks”. Yes. I am. But I was too blinded by the fact my daughter is only 9 to think I had to have “the talk” already.
I was briefly introduced to this a few months back, when my daughter created an Instagram account for herself, sitting in front of me on the couch, quietly typing away. I would NOT have wanted her posting pictures online. I only found out so quickly, because I received a “friend” request from her. My daughter. As she sat 6 feet away from me. Luckily she is so cute, she giggled her way thinking we could be friends. I’m lucky she was open enough to include, in a few more months, at this rate, she won’t be.
I guess my point is that I fell into that parent vortex of thinking, “not my kid”. She is not allowed a personal mobile device, and our shared tablet and laptop are always used with me in the room. Isn’t this the “safe” thing to do? This doesn’t mean that my daughter can’t or won’t access things she maybe isn’t ready to use, or I’m not ready to have her use. So I learned in one fell swoop that “monitoring” is very active and NOT passive.
The ever lasting argument I hear is, “All my friends have it”. While this has varying degrees of truth, even if all her friends DON’T have it, they easily have ACCESS to it, which I’m learning is almost as good as the same thing.
When I had my beautiful girl, the typical awkward talk I may have thought I’d have is about the “birds and the bees”. Nowadays, that awkward talk is about social media technology. I certainly didn’t see that one coming when I bought my baby books.
So, sat down we did. I’m sure I didn’t address everything I needed to, but it was a start. By the way, I’m pretty sure she could have been teaching me and not me teaching her. She knows about a lot of social media platforms. I told her about “privacy” settings (ironically, I’ll reuse this for another birds and bees conversation) and only having friends or contacts she personally knows. While I may have seemed like an angry old lady with too many cats, I insisted she not allow “strangers” to be friends online. Many other kids are online and I’m sure a great many of them are just harmless little children wanting to share interests. She was also not to give information about her phone number or address, other “identifying” characteristics about herself. (school, Mom’s full name, etc) I realize this may seem overbearing, but I need to move slowly.
She listened and seemed very pained to sit with Mom while I went over some of my rules for being “safe” online. I don’t want to scare her into thinking everyone online is a bad person, but she is still at the point where she trusts people and takes them at face value. She also hasn’t spent anytime reading “comments” sections of sites and doesn’t necessarily realize how harmful and mean people can be online.
I know what sites she uses. I know what sites with which she has an account. I’ve made sure that the accounts are either private or unlisted or we have control over what can be seen. I have her passwords. But then again, maybe I’m like thousands of other parents that THINK they know, but aren’t actually completely in the know. I have to hope that what I’ve said sinks in and she realizes that safety and privacy are important things to take into account when creating your online presence.
While I was prepping this, I realized that maybe when I was teaching aspects of media literacy to my students, I was showing them “educational” apps and how to use them. What might be equally important is showcasing students how to be safe when navigating social media sites, not just the educational or work related ones. At secondary, my students have often already heard the conversation and don’t need me to tell them. We still have to safeguard against “sexting” and online dating profiles. I mean I never thought I’d be needing to help protect my teen students as they prep a dating profile for themselves.
I realize many teachers/schools are already teaching personal safety online. I support it. They are probably more on the cutting edge of technology than I might be. Just because I don’t like using Snapchat doesn’t mean my daughter won’t be using it, and if the school can help put safeguards in place, I welcome the support. It takes a village.