Our children are spending more and more time online, and they need our help to navigate the digital world. According to Common Sense Media, screen time has been up 17% for teens and tweens since the start of the pandemic from 2019 to 2021. Between 2019 and 2021, the total screen time used each day by tweens went from 4:44 to 5:33 and from 7:22 to 8:39 among teens. The internet and technology can be very powerful and helpful learning tools for our students. Google Meets, Zoom, and Facetime have all helped us stay connected to our families, friends, and schools. Social media and gaming have helped us keep and build relationships. However, like most tools, the internet needs to be used wisely and with safety measures in place.
Cyberbullying, phishing, online predators, scams, and malware are just some of the pitfalls of the internet. The people responsible for doing this are very knowledgeable at getting around safeguards. It is critically important that we remain aware and active with our children's social media interactions. Children can very innocently give out information that can potentially put them at risk. Have their user information, and check on their accounts regularly. Talk with them about the importance of not interacting with people they haven’t met face to face and not trusting anyone or any group who is acting anonymously. Define personal information and teach them not to give it out over the internet. It can be challenging for kids to understand that their sports team’s names, school names, street names, parents’ jobs, and more are all personal information.
Now that we're headed back out into our world, we need to know the members of our online community. We need to ensure that we establish trusting and healthy relationships. We can and need to work together to keep our kids thriving in our community and teach them how to be safe in all environments, including when online and on social media. Remind students not to accept invitations to communicate with anyone they do not know, and do not give out personal information when online.
Here are a few tips for keeping kids safe online:
- Have conversations with your children about online safety
- Keep your child’s computer in a common area of the house
- Monitor computer activity
- Set rules and warn about dangers
- Be sure to verify the identity of anyone your child is communicating with online
- Consider implementing parent controls
- Learn more about online safety on the Common Sense Media website: www.commonsensemedia.org
If it’s been a while since you’ve read the poem “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum, or maybe you’ve never had the opportunity to read it, I encourage you to look it up! While we work as a community to get back out into the world and constantly strive to create a better normal, his words come to mind. “And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”