Parkway e-News Story

Social Media - What Parents Need to Know

Jason Rooks, Parkway Director of Technology

The popularity of social media apps changes as quickly as the attention spans of those who use them. These are some of the hottest apps right now. And like any online space, they can be dangerous. This is what you need you know and how we can protect children together.

Popular apps:

  • Ask.FM - This app allows users to post and answer questions anonymously. The anonymous nature of this site has led some users to be mean or inappropriate. Nationally, it has been linked to many incidents of bullying, some ending in suicide.
  • Kik - This is an instant messaging app that allows users to chat and share photos. It is commonly used in connection with other social media apps, like Instagram, as an additional form of contact. It has also become a conduit for bullying and for predators to attempt to connect to children.
  • Instagram - Originally established as a great way to share what you were eating with the world, Instagram has become very popular with tweens and teens. It is an easy way to share photos and video, both publicly and privately. The ability to comment on selfies has led to numerous incidents of bullying and inappropriate behavior.
  • Twitter - One of the largest social media tools around, Twitter has shown how powerful 140 characters can be. Interactions on Twitter are typically public but it does allow for private communication between users. Similar to other social media apps, we are seeing a rise in the amount of cyberbullying taking place on Twitter.
  • Snapchat - Snapchat is one of the more controversial apps on this list. The most dangerous part about Snapchat is that it gives children the illusion of protection by stating that their photos or videos will disappear after a few seconds. The reality is that once a picture or video is online there is no way to permanently delete it.

Despite the potential danger some of these apps pose, I do not recommend taking away your child’s device or access to social media. Instead, take a moment to educate yourself on how some of these tools work and educate your children on how to use them responsibly.

At Parkway we have many layers of security that help to protect your children online. These layers include both technical protection through content filtering and the more importantly human protection provided by our counselors, teachers, and administrators. These layers are only the beginning - parents remain the best protection.

Strategies to protect your children:

  • Educate yourself. I know trying to learn about all the apps listed above is overwhelming. Don’t try to run out and learn them all. Pick the one you feel is most frequently used by your child and create an account. Have your child teach you how to use it. You should also educate yourself on your child’s current online presence by regularly Googling their name. This could provide you with a starting point for conversations with your child.
  • Educate your children. There are a lot of great resources out there to help you talk to your child about the dangers of social media, which I have included below. You don’t have to know the apps to know the dangers: sexual predators, cyberbullying, and identity theft.
  • Monitor or limit access. A good strategy is to monitor or limit a child’s time with a device and to require transparency. Don’t allow devices in bedrooms or behind closed doors. Moving all the charging cords to a central location like the kitchen or family room can tether your child’s activity to a family area. Review device activity on a periodic basis with your child and ask questions. A strategy I use personally is giving my daughter the passwords she can use, with the understanding that they cannot change. This allows her to freely use the app, but gives me the ability to check in on her if I feel like something is wrong. 
  • Trust your instincts. I’ve talked with parents who said they knew something was wrong but failed to act. Look out for increased anxiety or withdrawn behavior, especially when offline or away from their device. Don’t be afraid to talk to your children if it seems like they are hiding something. If it seems like something is wrong, it probably is.

Social media can be intimidating. It is almost guaranteed that as soon as you become familiar with one app, your child will move to another. The important thing is to keep learning and gathering the knowledge to protect your child in this ever-changing world.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Reporting Facebook Abuse - http://on.fb.me/Wrql5e
YouTube Safety - http://bit.ly/ZkZT3G
Common Sense Media - http://www.commonsense.org
OnGuardOnline.gov – http://www.onguardonline.gov
FBI Cyber Surf Islands - https://sos.fbi.gov/
Digital Citizenship - http://www.digitalcitizenship.net
How to teach digital citizenship - http://pkwy.info/17CCbCm

Parkway Network Access policy and guidelines:

Policy - http://bit.ly/parkwaynap
Guidelines - http://bit.ly/parkwaynapguidelines

Jason Rooks, Parkway Director of Technology and Innovation, jrooks@parkwayschools.net