Summertime online?

tablet device at beachIt’s June and the summer holidays are just around the corner! There will be plenty of fun times, and definitely plenty of free time for families and friends. For many of our children, free time means going online (i.e. gaming, socializing). Thus, it’s a good time to revisit with your child the expectations of being online over the summer months.

10 online topics to cover:

  1. Many children play online games whether via their gaming console, tablet, or smartphone. Know what your child’s favourite games are (are they age-appropriate?) and who they play with.
  2. Set time limits for the duration your child is allowed to be online. How early in the day are they allowed to be online? How late?  Is there a balance between online and offline activities?
  3. Children are starting to enter the social media world at a younger age. Know if your child uses social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Kik, etc…) Ask them to teach you about it if you are new to any of these sites.
  4. How about the new fad of socializing via ‘anonymous questions and answers’ apps? (i.e. Ask.fm, Spring.me, Wut, etc…) An earlier KCS blog broached this topic. Is your child using these? Know who they are following and how they are using these apps. They can be a wonderful source for socializing or a means for hurt and abuse.
  5. Your child may have a number of online ‘friends’ or ‘followers’.  But what happens when someone ‘unfriends’ your child? Be prepared for mood swings, rejection and sadness. Comfort, listen and talk to your child about friendships, peer pressure and relationships.
  6. Has your child checked their privacy and security settings of their various online accounts lately? Be sure that they set these to ‘friends only’ and allow only people they know and trust to be their ‘friend’.
  7. What type of passwords does your child use online? Be sure it is alphanumeric and doesn’t contain their first name or last name.
  8. What are the consequences if any of your expectations are not met? Follow through on these consequences if need be; your child needs to understand when the line has been crossed.
  9. Are online activities a part of daily dinner conversations? Having this set as a routine will provide a safe and comforting environment for your child to communicate all the great (and not so great) things that happen online. Have a handful of responses your child can use if they come across inappropriate sites or behaviours online.
  10. Kids love taking photos. Many post these online as well. Cruise through the photos stored on your child’s device to see what exists and could possibly end up online.

Finally, as digital natives your child will innately explore the online world. It is filled with wonderful opportunities and hazy, grey ones too. As effective role models we can teach them to keep out of the questionable areas and enjoy a safe summer!

Stacy Marcynuk
Director of IT, Curriculum

Further Reading:
http://www.safekids.com/family-contract-for-smartphone-use/
http://www.safekids.com/family-contract-for-online-safety/
http://www.protectkids.com/parentsafety/pledge.htm
http://parentingteens.about.com/library/specials/nnetsafe.htm
http://www.carolinaparent.com/articlemain.php?Technology-Contracts-Help-Keep-Kids-Safe-Online-3866

It’s popular, it’s anonymous, it’s the new social media

anonymous_childFacebook and Twitter are household names. Instagram and Snapchat are becoming increasingly popular with our grades 5-8 students as they focus on sharing photos instead of text. The latest social networking sites gaining in popularity over the past year are those that allow anonymous questions and answers.

These websites encourage users to create an account or login via an existing Facebook or Twitter account. Anyone can post comments, questions and answers to anyone else’s profile, anonymously. Herein lies the opportunity to engage in negative, inappropriate and potentially abusive online behavior.

Ask.fm is the most popular example. Others include spring.me, Whisper, Secret, Wut and Sneeky. Has your child come across any of these? The best course of action is to engage in regular conversations about technology. Share new apps, favourite apps, by-gone apps, funny online photos (cats seem popular) and even ask your child to teach you something about social media and online privacy. Your child may eventually feel comfortable sharing information you may not be aware of. Give it a try!

Stacy Marcynuk
Director of IT, Curriculum

Further Reading:
The Economist – Anonymous social networking, Secrets and lies
Anonymous social networking apps: What parents can do about them
Safety Beyond Facebook: 11 Social Media Apps Every Parent Should Know About
Common Sense Media – 11 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to After Facebook

When the walls disappear…

Just recently, Officer Douglas from the Toronto Police delivered a timely talk to our middle school students about social media – the predominant tool being Facebook – where you post and share messages and images.  An interesting fact quickly spreading is that Facebook collects and owns all of the information you post.

Digital ToolsWhen you read and/or post online, you are usually in a safe place: your classroom, office, kitchen, living room, bedroom or the passenger seat of a car. You are usually using your own laptop or smartphone. The setting is one of comfort and security. There are physical walls around you to keep out harm; there are firewalls around your electronic device to keep out intruders. In this comfort zone, you are more likely to submit personal information about yourself (or others) online. However, as soon as you press ‘send,post or submit’, these walls disappear. Poof!

The images and/or words that you just transmitted entered cyberspace where there are no walls, where anyone and everyone can see and hear everything that is online, including the police. Even if you delete it, it’s too late; a copy was made the instant you pressed ‘send, post or submit’.

So before the ‘walls disappear’, think twice about what you post. Will you be worried about the images you‘re uploading? Will you be worried about the text that you‘re about to put out there? If yes, hit delete.

Stacy Marcynuk
Director of IT, Curriculum
Kingsway College School

Type, Click, …Swipe

typewriterThis past weekend, I took my kids to a museum in St. Jacobs, Ontario. They were fascinated by the antiques called typewriters – especially when the metal bar for each letter lifted to strike the inserted paper. Wow!

It is incredible how far along technology has progressed. Typewriters will always fascinate our children but there still was a learning curve with its use. The arrival of computers grabbed the world’s attention but there still is a learning curve with ‘mouse’ control. In the past few years, the arrival of personal, mobile touchscreen devices (iPads, Playbook, smartphones, etc.) garnered the widest audience.

Just last week, I attended the ECOO Conference (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) where hundreds of teachers from across Ontario convened to share ideas and experiences. During the many sessions over two days, there was a sea of tablets (iPad, Galaxy Tab2, etc.) being utilized to take notes, participate using the Twitter backchannel or download the presenter’s files. Educators of all ages were actively engaged with these touchscreen computers.

What is the learning curve with these mobile devices? Just ask a toddler. Children as young as 2 or 3 years easily manipulate these touchscreens as there are no longer ‘big keys’ to press down, no ‘mouse’ to control – just a screen where you can tap, swipe and even pinch.

How easy is that?

Stacy Marcynuk
Director of IT, Curriculum
Kingsway College School

Blurring the Online Boundary

Parenting and online safetyIf you’ve heard of the ‘information highway’ you’ll know that social media is taking over much of this traffic. If you’ve heard of ‘surfing the web’, you’ve just dated yourself. Students just refer to the web as ‘being online’.

As students begin joining social media at a younger age, the online boundary shifts just a little more. When does it stop? What can we do? Does it need to stop?

Social media is ubiquitous in today’s society and can play a fantastic role in a child’s development. Be an active part of this and let your child share with you what is happening on Facebook or Club Penguin. Have frequent open discussions about the various types of comments posted by users on Grooveshark or YouTube. These are but a few popular social media apps that our children frequently visit. Share your favourite social media apps, comments, tweets or conundrums. It’s okay to let our kids know that we’re fallible and that we also enjoy social media, albeit different social media apps. And of course, within these wonderful conversations, build in talks about privacy settings, risks, consequences and ‘your rules’.  Be strong, yet gentle.

As your child grows older, the boundary will blur and morph. Let it be a natural, agreeable transition. Good luck!

Stacy Marcynuk
Director of IT, Curriculum
Kingsway College School

Some great online safety resources: