This week, we will host a discussion for parents at our school about online life for children. We generated this Top 5 Tips list for our parents to set up a working home-school partnership for not just safe but also positive, purposeful use of media for learning.
1) Set Up the Neighborhood Boundaries: Think of online exploration as analogous to our city. Here in New York, there is no magic age where you would release your child to explore it without boundaries, and if they wait until adulthood to venture out without you, the peril is greater. Questions to ask:
- What are the safe times for “travel”?
- Where are the safe places?
- Where are they allowed to go with you?
- Where are they allowed to go without you?
2) Set Identity & Safety Rules:
- Never share full name, address, school name.
- Never share pictures with a stranger.
- Decide as a family what email to use for account & ensure parents have access to that email and the password to online accounts.
3) Rely on Policies: You don’t have to go it alone in setting up boundaries. Most online communities for social media or gaming have age regulations in place. Schools also have boundaries for what is and what is not acceptable use. When up against the stubborn will of “but all my friends are allowed,” pass the buck and go with these guiding questions:
- Well, what does the school/site note about usage? (Give them the responsibility of looking it up.)
- Why do you think the site has these boundaries set up?
- (If they are too young) So what do you propose for getting around this policy?
- Are you comfortable lying and breaking the regulations? Does this match how you behave in face-to-face environments?
4) Just Say No... & Find Opportunities to Say Yes: When guidance to reason doesn’t work, taking a firm, clear stance on what is off limits is strongly advisable. No matter what they say, you are not the only parent who has this rule! On the other hand, as a parent, you can provide a bridge to safe, productive, creative and purposeful use. For example, the site Wattpad, while limited to 13 and older for individual use, could be a great way to introduce collaboration if your child likes writing. A family account could provide a way for your child to share their passion for writing with others and you. Many parents are not even aware when children begin young careers as bloggers or authors, but this could be a great window and way to say yes.
5) Model Digital Citizenship:
Whether we like it or not, the digital landscape has become a permanent
part of our world. Just as we cannot teach our children how to navigate the city safely from the comfort of our home, we cannot teach them how to explore and interact online without having a presence there. Not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? While there is no need to be master of the digital universe with profiles on each media, being in a digital community and getting oriented before your child arrives is the best way to prep proper guidance for his or her entry at the right time.
Resources for Parents
**All of these have Facebook, Pinterest boards, and other social media pages to follow for resources as they are released.
Finding Green NYC: student social media activism http://on.fb.me/10ZINnQ