Parents need to protect children online
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
Parents have a duty to protect their children from predators, bullies and, frankly, themselves.
When it comes to the growing issue of cyber bullying, parents hold more power and responsibility than they might think.
Local school boards have taken commendable steps to combat cyber bullying and the misuse of technology, whether it happens in the school yard, at home or online.
Amendments to Alberta’s Education Act were approved in November and require students to refrain from and report bullying, regardless of where it occurs. It also places a burden on school administrators to handle all reported incidents of bullying.
Administrators have committed to monitoring the online world of students in an effort to cut down on bullying. This commitment needs to be met equally with a pledge from parents to get involved in their child’s online life.
Parents must first be aware of the capabilities of the technology their child is being exposed to.
What was once primarily a music device now enables users to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and messaging when connected to Wi-Fi, which itself can be accessed locally at popular hangouts like the mall, fast food outlets, coffee shops, schools and recreation facilities.
Individuals using iPods can send text messages between the devices, video chat with their contacts and have full access to the Internet.
Knowing the capabilities of the technology being used must be paired with the knowledge of how kids are actually using the devices.
Although posting offensive or threatening language and sharing inappropriate images online or through text message isn’t a rampant phenomenon, it is a growing concern and it does happen.
Someone’s child logs in to Twitter with the username St_AExposed, where he or she publicly identifies peers – the vast majority of whom are minors – and attaches to their names allegations of a sexual nature.
Someone’s child submits photos and descriptions of their peers to The Dirty, a notorious and malicious gossip website that admittedly publishes rumours, speculation, assumptions and opinions.
Someone’s child is taking pornographic images of themselves and sending them to peers, where they can then be shared online.
It might not happen often, but it does happen.
There is no question that an individual using technology and mobile devices is responsible for his or her actions. But when this user is a young child, it also becomes the responsibility of his or her parents.
Parents cannot rely on school administrators to be the sole educators and watchdogs of children – teachers have 25 children to monitor at any given time. It needs to start at home.
Parents need to peel back the veil of anonymity that their children hide behind online.
Regular conversation needs to occur around the proper usage of technology, social media and mobile devices so children are aware of the consequences.
If needed, parents should be able to log into their child’s various social media accounts to monitor usage. They should be able to review their child’s online search history and read messages their child is exchanging with others.
It may seem intrusive, but parents have a duty to protect their child.
Confirming that a child is using technology appropriately is far better than finding out they’re not only after a scandalous photo surfaces. Knowing a child is being bullied has more promising outcomes than finding out after they’ve taken their life.
The common assertion that it takes a village to raise a child is becoming even more accurate with the rise of technology. It will take a collaborative effort by policy makers, educators and parents to ensure children are shielded from bullying, especially in the online realm.