STEPHANIE VEALE ast year, Myriam Martinez' fifthgrade daughter requested a Facebook account. Martinez, of Brighton, had no idea how Facebook worked. What was a "Wall," and what exactly did it really mean to be someone's friend? How much control did a person have over privacy? She wasn't sure, so she set up her own account. Once she had navigated through the privacy settings and gotten a feel for the Facebook culture, she let her daughter use Facebook through the account she had set up and under close supervision. Her daughter keeps telling her "everyone" at school has an account, but Martinez and her husband stand firm that none of their three daughters have their own account. "I don't know what that means, 'everyone,' but I know that she wants to friend a lot of people who have Facebook accounts," L Experts cue parents on how to monitor their children's Facebook and texting habits says Martinez, who is sur- prised that so many middle-schoolers have access. These days - with Facebook, Twitter, texting, blogs, YouTube, streaming television shows and websites with inappropriate content galore - it can seem like cell phones and the Internet are assaulting families from all sides. But the worst thing a parent can do is retreat, says Ed Suk, executive director of the New York branch of .the Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "It's a very complicated and challenging world of technology that we're living in right now, and sometimes the best advice for parents is to go back to the basics," Sui<says. "Talk to your kids, set clear guidelines and make sure they have the ability to come to you When tney're experiencmg's- me- thing inappropriate:' It's never too early to start addressing Internet safety issues with your children, Sui<says. And it's never too late, either - even though teenagers may be "light years" ahead of their parents in terms of Internet know-how, and it can feel overwhelming to delve into their world. The good news: There are plenty of resources to help parents navigate the ever-changing, complex Internet landscape. One reSOurce is NetSmartz, an online cyber-safety work.hop dcvclopcd by thc National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for parents, teens, chilo dren and educators. NetSmartz ~ 6C WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2010 Net FROM PAGE cluding name, school, city, address, phone number and photographs, can The Rochester School District has a longbe made public to anyone standing partnership with the National Center for on the Internet. It all Missing & Exploited Children. About seven years depends on the user's ago, the district began incorporating Internet privacy settings. safety into its curriculum at various grade levels, Photographs have beusing NetSmartz to train teachers and students. • come a particularly insidIn January, about 70 elementary teachers will ious issue, Suk and Deattend a training on Internet safety and abducMarie say. Even innoction prevention, says Sandra Pawlak, health eduuous photos can pose a cation project coordinator for RCSD. problem if privacy setOne way the district has sought to reach stutings aren't strict enough. dents more effectively is through the National There is also an inCenter's Peer Training Program. Each year, health creasing number of ways teachers select about 120 students districtwide for Facebook users and to get trained in cyber safety issues, including others to disclose their the dangers of cyberbullying and the risks to exact location at any privacy online. These students take what they've given time. Facebook learned back to the schools and co-teach the recently came out with topics in class. the "Places" feature, al"When students hear the message from the lowing users to publicize fellow students, it's often more personal for where they are (in the them," she says. "Instead of being told by an real world) using their adult, they're told by their peers. Our job is to smart phone. Cameras make sure they're getting the message in as and cell phones with many different ways as possible," other area built-in GPS capabilities districts, including Webster and Greece, use can imprint GPS coorNetSmartz to train teachers and students as well. dinates on a photograph that has been mobileuploaded. And, of course, there sion, DeMarle says. Even such an ugly dress toare chat rooms, where older teens should have day?" (or something children and teens can to "friend" their parent much worse). The hard talk to people they do not on Facebook (and yes, part is, there's no name know. you should be on the site, attached to the insult. with your own account, Cyberbullying can also How can I monitor , monitoring what you can happen on blogs, through my child? see and keeping up-toInstant Messenger or ' Parents should have date on new developGoogle Chat, or other complete access to their ments). websites - basically any child's Facebook page, at Parents should also place on the Internet least during the tween consider having the fam- where it's possible to and early teenage years, ily computer in a compost comments or send DeMarle says. mon area, check histories messages. One way to monitor of all computers regularly Facebook use and set and consider blocking or What should I do if it happens to my child? ground rules is by writmonitoring software. ing up a contract with If you think something What is cyberbullying? your child before you is going on, start by findallow him or her to open Cyberbullying can take ing out exactly what hapan account, and say that many forms, but DeMarle pened. Have your child you will revisit the consays it usually happens call up the posts in questract each year, DeMarie these days through Face- tion and review them, says. book or through a popand ask your child to tell UContracts are easier to ular website called you his or her version of enforce because there's Formspring.me. With events. Keep in mind that no ambiguity," he says. "It Formspring, users have the line between bullies becomes kind of the third an account and can ask and victims often gets party. You can always . questions of friends, blurred, with victims argue with your parents, including anonymous turning into bullies and but it's hard to argue questions. So if a teen vice versa at a rapid pace, against written words," wants to pick on a classDeMarle says. The point at which a mate, he or she can mesIn the moment, you teenager can have a sesage the classmate anonshould tell your child not cret password depends ymously or post anonyto engage with the bully. on a lot of factors and mously to that person's The bullied teen should should be a'family.decipage:~'Why did you wear- ignore mean-spirited School training Ie has a "definitions" page that highlights common Internet terms for parents still learning the lingo; it also has a sister site, NetSmartz4ll.org, that allows you to '~sk an Expert" if you have a specific question. The best way to handle Internet and cell phone issues is to make them part of an ongoing con- versation with your child, "the same way we have ongoing conversations about lots of things we value as families," says Dan DeMarle, a local education specialist who includes links to cyber safety resources at www.demarleinc.com. "Parents need to protect their kids, and they can't protect them unless they know what they're doing," DeMarle says. We posed some common questions to the experts. What types of things should I be concerned about? If your child has an account on a social networking site, such as Facebook or MySpace, he or she can share information freely with people who are friends - or not. Oftentimes, children and teens are Facebook "friends" with people who they don't know very well, if at all. And . some information, in- nothnagle.com/7steps emocratandChronicle.com. DEMOCRATAND CHRONICLE "1 think schools are struggling with where the boundaries are What are the civil rights of kids within school districts, and what are the boundaries?" Ed Suk, executive director of the New York branch of the Center for Missing & Exploited Children messages, delete offensive comments, and even consider suspending his or her Facebook account until things have settled down, DeMarie says. Help your child think through ways of solving the problem on her own. If the issue involves children from the same school and it's spilling over into school time, inform the school, DeMarie says. But don't expect a uniform response: Some schools are very proactive with cyberbullyingissues,and some won't touch them. This is a problem throughout New York state, Suk says. "I think schools are struggling with where the boundaries are," Suk says. "What are the civil rights of kids within school districts, and what are the boundaries? What are appropriate and inappropriate actions for schools to take?" (This spring, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is sponsoring a conference on this very topic.) If a conflict has escalated to a serious level among children who do not go to the same school, or the school isn't getting involved, you may need to contact the parents of the other kids, DeMarle says. If any of the cyberbullying rises to criminal levels, for example another teen posting nude pictures of your child on Facebook, then you should call the police. On the preventive side of things, Myriam Martinez has explained to her young daughters that 'riendships online-should be treated like face-toface friendships in some ways: Don't say anything you wouldn't say to someone in person, don't say mean things, don't post anything on someone's Wall that you wouldn't want on your own Wall. In other ways, you have to be even more careful with Facebook than with real life. "I tell them that when you share something with someone one on one, no one else hears it," Martinez says. "But when you post something on a Wall, anyone can see it. Even if it's just a joke, you're missing the con- text on the tnternet. You don't get the w\J.olestory .. You have to be really careful." What are the risks with cell phones? Teens have a tendency to spend way too much .time texting when they should be doing other things, like paying attention in class, doing homework or sleeping, DeMarIe said. "Sexting" has gained popularity and the danger is that more kids feel comfortable taking nude pictures of themselves and others, and disseminating them via text (or posting them to Facebook). Too much cell phone time can cause a child to do poorly in school or feel overtired from lack of sleep. Parents should treat a cell phone just like a computer and have the pass code and set the rules. 0 Veale is a freelance writer. in Rochester.
© Copyright 2019