Cyber Bullying: How To Protect Your Children
In a world where people use technology to stay connected; understanding that technology—and how to protect young people who use it—is more important than ever. To help parents, the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) and Ukiah High School (UHS) are teaming up to present, “Digital Safety,” a program to educate parents about how to keep their teens and pre-teens safe online. The program will be presented on January 30th, at 6:00 P.M. The program is open to the public and will be presented at the UHS Cafeteria.
UPD School Resource Office Vince Morse and UHS Assistant Principal Chris Francis will teach parents of middle school and high school students about mobile media, managing a digital reputation, bullying online, sexting, and protecting privacy. To download our handout, click here: Family Media Agreement
Since the average youth (between the ages of 8-18 years old) spends 7.5 hours using different forms of media each day, its important to understand what “media” means. Media is much more than television, radio, and printed newspapers or magazines. It now includes the messages and images we consume and create, and the technology used to consume and create them. Media sources include social networking, texting, wikis, blogs, video chats, and other online resources.
“We’re going to educate parents about how teens use online media. We’re also going to provide them with a Family Media Agreement they can use with their kids. The agreement encourages youth to provide their parents with access to their online accounts so activity is transparent. We’ll make the agreement available on ukiahpolice.com for any families can’t attend on January 30,” School Resource Officer Morse said.
Recently, Officer Morse attended Yahoo’s digital safety training and was disturbed by the impact technology has had on some families. He described the suicide of a teenage girl with no history of mental illness. She simply didn’t know how to deal with the situation when a sexually explicit photograph of her was shared among boys at her school. “You have to understand the mindset of teens. To them, something like that is overwhelming. They can’t handle it. They’re too young to have perspective,” he said.
How can you tell if your child is the victim of online bullying? The same symptoms apply whether bullying is online or not. If your children’s grades plummet, if your children disconnect with friends, quit activities they’ve enjoyed, don’t want to go to school or are suddenly “sick enough to stay home” much of the time, ask them what’s going on. Let them know that there is nothing too terrible for them to share with you, whether it’s drugs, sex, violence, or something else. Promise to listen to their opinions with an open mind. Students can reach out to school counselors if they don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents, initially.
“Parents need to teach their kids that there is no privacy online. Once something’s out there digitally, there’s no taking it back,” Morse said. “And, when kids download apps [applications] that link their phones to GPS [global positioning systems], they may be allowing predators to pinpoint their location. The kids have no idea they’re setting themselves as targets.”
Some parents don’t realize that their students have access to the Internet, including Facebook, at the UHS Library. Also, with free wi-fi on campus, students with tablets or laptops can access the Internet without safety filters. “Because information can be shared instantly, teens can threaten each other online and setup fights quickly without teachers or administrators knowing about it until it’s too late,” Morse said.
If a computer, phone, or tablet is used to threaten someone, it can be seized and held by investigators for months. It doesn’t matter that it’s the family’s only computer or that the phone didn’t belong to the teen who made the threat. Evidence is evidence.
If you would like more information about how to help your teen stay safe online, check out these websites:
Yahoo! Safely Yahoo! - Includes resources on how to make smart and safer choices online, and on how to use Yahoo! products safely. http://safely.yahoo.com/
Platform for Good - A project of the Family Online Safety Institute, the platform helps teachers, parents, and teens connect, share and do good online. http://www.aplatformforgood.org/
Common Sense Media - This national non-profit organization provides research, parenting advice, a digital citizenship curriculum, and an independent media rating system for television, games, movies, books, music, websites and apps. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/
iKeepSafe - iKeepSafe guides parents on how to approach new media in safe and healthy ways. Check out their campaign, “BE a PRO,” which focuses on six pillars of success for online digital citizenship to help families define success for youth online, and help them implement tools and habits to prepare their children to be ethical, responsible and resilient digital citizens. http://www.ikeepsafe.org/
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.