RAISING DIGITALLY RESPONSIBLE YOUTH A PARENT'S GUIDE
Copyright © 2021 Safer Schools Together. The reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written permission of the copyright owners. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: Given the rapidly evolving nature of technology and social media applications, this information (especially social media platform related) is current as of the date of publication.
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Introduction Our current world climate is constantly connected to technology. What do we need to know as parents to protect our children and teach them responsible and appropriate uses of technology? The parameters of rules and expectations that we put in place at home will undoubtedly guide our children's sense of digital responsibility. Raising children in a digital era can seem overwhelming at times. Technology has entered our lives at a rapid pace over the past several years and continues to evolve. The reality is that apps and technological devices will change, but the behavior stays the same. Moderation is key to managing technology use in our homes. This does not need to be an "all or nothing" approach with either absolute prohibition or full unchecked usage. It is beneficial to maintain an open, transparent, and ongoing dialogue with our children regarding the internet, technology, social media, and video games Remaining approachable could be the difference between whether our children come to us when issues or uncomfortable situations arise rather than feeling alone in the process of going to their peers to seek comfort and advice instead. Technology is here to stay, whether we like it or not. The digital reputation of today's students, or how they choose to represent themselves online, is being evaluated and assessed by future employers or admissions departments. The goal of this parent guide is to help introduce the major social media platforms, video games, and relevant trends that are either being used already or have the potential to be used by our children.
Stay the course. We want to prepare our children for their tech-infused futures and walk down this digital journey alongside them. Good luck!
Keep phones and devices out of the bedroom. Sleep is important for growth and according to this study by Dr. Ben Carter, 89% of adolescents have at least one device in their bedrooms - most of which are used around bedtime - doubling their chances of getting insufficient sleep. Sleep disturbance in childhood is known to have adverse effects on health, including poor diet, obesity, sedative behavior, reduced immune function and stunted growth, as well as links with mental health issues. If possible, have a central charging station for all portable household digital devices. The kitchen table or island, living room, or another common area in your house is a great place to keep all household devices charged at night, including your own! By setting an example for your kids that you don't need to sleep with your device(s), it helps our kids understand that they don't need to either! General Parenting Tips There are some general parenting tips that can help navigate a household that respects digital boundaries. Some of these include:
Photo by Driven By Decor.
Know their passwords - it is our parental right. You paid for the device that you gave your child, which means - you guessed it! You own it! You have a right to spot-check devices that belong to you, including the ones that you gave your child.
Stay educated. If your child comes to you and asks to download an app you're unfamiliar with, download the app and try it out first. Play around with it and do your research! If your child already has an app or game, ask them to teach you about it! Put tape or a sticky over the laptop or tablet camera when not in use.
Photo by Review Geek.
Try to build a culture of openness and trust in establishing a two-way dialogue about technology and social media. You want to be approachable to your children when, not if, an issue comes up in their digital lives. Technology isn't going anywhere, try to introduce technology into your home and your children's lives at a pace you feel comfortable relative to your child's age and emotional maturity.
We are not our child's best friend. We are responsible for ensuring their safety in the online world just as much as we are responsible for ensuring their safety in the offline world! Google yourself and your family. Any names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, or social media usernames that are associated with your family can be searched online. See what shows up before others do. Remind your children of the permanence of anything posted online or sent electronically. Not everything we post or send online stays, but we don't get a choice of what stays and what doesn't! These tips are intended to be used in part or whole alongside your personal parenting methods. You as a parent know what is best for your child. It's important to put our children's well-being first, and allowing yourself to have a strong understanding of digital responsibility will enable your child to also have a strong understanding of digital responsibility so they can make better decisions online and offline. If you would like to attend a parent session on raising digitally responsible youth, how to keep our children safe online, and understanding current trends, please reach out to your school/school district or PAC and ask them to request a proposal from Safer Schools Together.
The Essentials There are many components to the online world that are generally known and understood by most digital users, however, here are three essential terms that we need to understand to take control of our digital responsibility: Hashtag A hashtag is a symbol (#) added before a word or phrase to create a searchable category indexed by social media and becomes discoverable by other users. Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are the primary platforms where hashtags are used. Hashtags are a way of making it easier to find, follow, and contribute to a conversation. Username A username is a unique online identity that is chosen to represent someone online. Most platforms make you choose a username when you create an account. Passwords We all know the challenge of trying to remember our password for a website or an app and it's easy to fall into habits of using the same passwords for all our logins. This is a dangerous habit, especially if it is something easily guessable such as a dog or our kid's name and their birthday. We should remind our children not to share their passwords with their friends ! This is the number one reason behind accounts getting "hacked". Use different passwords for each platform you have an account for and make sure that they are strong with a mix of numbers, letters, and special characters (!@#$%^&*).
HINT: Try a password manager! There are many free apps available. A password manager stores your passwords on a digital keychain and can help you manage passwords (especially really strong ones) so you don't have to!
Sexting Vs. Sextortion There is no doubt that we are seeing a tremendous impact that smartphones are having on our everyday lives. The use of text messaging especially has skyrocketed since the influence of smartphones. Research shows that over 15 million texts are sent every minute, and this number is expected to continue to increase. The term ‘sexting’ has emerged as the use of text messages to send sexually explicit photographs and messages. Sexting is also commonly done over popular apps such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct Messages, but we have seen it widely popularized through Snapchat due to its ability to send photographs and messages that can only be seen once for only seconds before it “disappears” into cyberspace. Sexting has its dangers to acknowledge how it can permanently impact the lives of our youth. One of the most dangerous scenarios that we see occur repeatedly, especially in teenagers, is sextortion. Sextortion is when non- physical forms of coercion are used to extort non-consensual sexual favors from the victim. Sextortion can happen to anyone who chooses to sext – it’s not always a stranger you’ve never met, it can also be someone close to you. It is crucial to understand when you choose to engage in sexting, you are subjecting yourself to sextortion.
SOCIAL MEDIA APPS TO KNOW
Since its release in 2011, Snapchat has remained to this day the most popular social media application that our youth are using to communicate and share their digital lives. Snapchat is the de facto medium of communication for students grade 6-12. The reason for its popularity is that it turned text communication into a visual experience that allows users to send disappearing photos that leave behind no evidence and don't (for the most part) become part of a youth's digital footprint. The foundation of Snapchat is the disappearing photo or video that vanishes into thin air after it has been opened. Users can set a viewing time of up to 10 seconds or an infinite amount of time after which, once viewed, it will be deleted from the recipient’s device and as the company claims, from its servers. Snapchat allows users to take still photos, record short videos, add text, and create drawings and send them to a personalized and typically private list of friends. However, nothing stops the recipient from taking a screenshot or using a different device to take a picture of the image or video. Note: if you
take a screenshot using the recipient device, within Snapchat, it will notify the sender that you’ve taken a copy.
Despite news headlines that suggest that Snapchat is just a “sexting” app or one that is ONLY used to send nude photos, this is not the case and represents a very small usage of the app.
Snaps A user takes a photo/video using their digital device/smartphone in real-time. The user can select an amount of time between 1-10 seconds or choose infinite time for the receiver to view the photo/video. A user can elect to have the photo/video they have just taken to be saved into their photo gallery or simply sent via Snapchat without being saved on their device. Stories A user can add the photo/video to their “story”. Depending on the user’s privacy settings, the photo and videos added to a story can be viewed by all Snapchat users or just those on their friends' list for only up to 24 hours. Chat A user can type a text message within the Snapchat app to their friends using this feature. Once both parties have viewed the message, the message will vanish – the chat can also be manually changed within each conversation to disappear after 24 hours instead. Photos from the camera roll or gallery of the user’s photo can be uploaded and sent within the chat. Group chats often exist between multiple friends.
Streaks Seen within the chat log screen, a person’s “Snapchat Streak” is the number of consecutive days that the account owner and a friend have sent at least but no less than 1 snap per day to each other. If they do not snap each other in 24 hours, they lose their streak with their friend (a huge deal!). Snap Map Within the Snapchat app is a feature called the Snap Map. Here, you can view Snaps of sporting events, celebrations, breaking news, etc. However, perhaps the most concerning the content you can view on this map where your friends are…right now. You can share your locations with everyone you are “friends” with so you can see exactly where they are and what they are doing (driving, sleeping, listening to music, etc.) in real-time plotted on a map.
These are all of Ashley’s friends who have Snapmap enabled. They are represented by the Bitmoji that they designed. This is why it is so important that our children are only communicating on Snapchat with close friends that they know in real life. Within Settings, you can turn off the ability for others to see your location by enabling “Ghost Mode” – or only allow it to be viewed by their best friend and/or parents.
After taking a photo on Snapchat you will see:
Message Screen (Friends Only):
Here is an example of what the Snapchat Chat screen could potentially look like within a Snapchat account. Use the Chat Screen Icon Guide and the Friend Emoji charts on the following pages to see who this student interacts with the most.
Chat Screen Icon Guide
Courtesy of Snapchat.
Chat Screen Icon Guide Friend Emojis are determined by Snapchat to keep track of the status of a user's friends. These can change over time based on the interactions between users. Friend Emojis can also be altered in the settings of Snapchat.