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Eventually, internet safety will be a mandatory core requirement for all schools. Parents need to provide basic internet safety information to children and reinforce the school lessons at home by demonstration. Parents should teach safety lessons through example in addition to words. Students won’t accept lessons taught in school if parents don’t show children on a daily basis that the lessons apply to their family and all other internet users. An example is seat belt use. If parents don’t always wear their seat belts while driving or in a vehicle as a passenger, children will learn that lessons taught in school only apply to someone else or just long enough for them to get the good grade.
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Schools Teach, Parents Reinforce
We can’t expect young people to stop or not to start smoking when parents make excuses that they can’t stop right now. The same is true with safety while connected to the internet. While schools can teach that students shouldn’t smoke or talk with strangers, parents need to not only reinforce lessons taught at school but also to supervise and monitor internet activities on a regular basis.
Unfortunately for many children and teenagers (and some adults), “don’t talk to strangers” doesn’t always translate to “don’t give personal information to anyone you meet online.” Schools can’t provide safety education alone. It won’t help much if the school teaches a child to safely cross the street close to the school but parents don’t reinforce safe behavior at the street by the home. Safety must be practiced everyday in the real world and online. Schools can provide a platform that students can present to parents but parents should accept the responsibility for reinforcing the lessons through both words and actions. If schools don’t yet have a presentation or curriculum, it is the parent’s responsibility to teach proper safety or suggest a school safety presentation.
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Internet activities aren’t limited to using the home or library computer online. Internet activities can also include email, text messaging with a cell phone or computer, and uploading pictures to social networking community accounts through the cell phone, camera, or video recorder.
Electronic devices and communications are a vital part of most children’s lives. Their personal world typically depends on communicating with friends and peers and sharing details of everyday happenings through words, pictures, or videos. Social networking communities offer any user the ability to meet and interact with other people (strangers) that are interested in the same subjects. For minors, child predators can disguise themselves anyway they want. People can pretend to be a peer, teacher, younger or whatever else their imagination can create for the particular situation. Just because someone online says they have certain characteristics, doesn’t mean they really do. The potential dangers with cell phone texting for minors can be great. You just don’t know for sure if the online friend (meaning the friend you met for the very first time online and haven’t met in person under parental or school supervision) will use the phone number associated with the text message for good or bad purposes.
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Schools and parents shouldn’t be competitors when the issue is personal safety. Both should understand how pervasive electronic communications are with the upcoming generation and how personal safety should be a number one priority.