Parent Coffee Morning 1: Social Networks

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The Digital Literacy Team at East is pleased to welcome parents to our first Coffee Morning – this time focusing on: Social Networks: Why they matter, and how you can help your child develop a positive online presence.

We looked first at what was worrying you about Social Networks. Here is a wordle which shows your concerns:

The Digital Literacy Team has looked carefully at these. We have examined recent research, talked with students and other parents and teachers to put together some information regarding these issues. We hope you can see your concerns as opportunities to open the doors of communication with your child. 
1. Time

How much time with technology is too much? What’s appropriate for a child at a particular age? The answers to these questions will be different for every family, and depend on a variety of factors – making it a difficult one to answer!

The DLT team recommends having a discussion with your child about what is reasonable. Homework, outdoor play, relaxation etc are some of the considerations to think about. Obviously the age of the child makes a difference too. 

We advocate a balanced approach, where screen time is only part of a set of varied after school activities.
Common Sense Media has some great articles on managing screen time:
2. Contact with Strangers
big bad wolfOne concern we hear often from parents is the worry that students will be contacted by strangers, who may try to track them down and possibly attempt to meet them. The statistical probability of this actually happening is very low.

Dr. David Finkelhor (director of the Crimes against Children Research Center), in a panel discussion entitled ‘Just the Facts About Online Youth Victimization‘ states,

“Our research, actually looking at what puts kids at risk for receiving the most serious kinds of sexual solicitation online, suggests that it’s not giving out personal information that puts kid at risk. It’s not having a blog or a personal website that does that either. What puts kids in danger is being willing to talk about sex online with strangers or having a pattern of multiple risky activities on the web like going to sex sites and chat rooms, meeting lots of people there, kind of behaving in what we call like an internet daredevil.”

 For more information, you might like to read the following articles:

3. Digital Footprint
A digital footprint is not necessarily something to fear! Will Richardson, writing for the journal Educational Leadership states:

As the geeky father of a 9-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, one of my worst fears as they grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. Not that they won’t be able to use Google well, mind you, but that when a certain someone (read: admissions officer, employer, potential mate) enters “Tess Richardson” into the search line of the browser, what comes up will be less than impressive. That a quick surf through the top five hits will fail to astound with examples of her creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work. Or, even worse, that no links about her will come up at all. I mean, what might “Your search did not match any documents” imply?

We want to help students develop a positive online presence, ensuring they understand the ‘stickiness’ of online information, and how to make good decisions about what is shared publicly. 
4. Distractions
Part of learning to work effectively in the 21st Century involves managing distractions. Recognizing that homework may take longer if you are distracted, and taking steps to reduce that distraction is an important part of growing up for today’s students.

Some of the suggestions we gathered from students, parents and teachers may help:

– Put your Skype on invisible so others think you are offline.
– Turn off Chat in Facebook/Google Chat
– Turn off Twitter notifications (or turn it off entirely)
– Work in a public place (e.g. Kitchen table), so other people can keep you on task
– Take regular breaks
– Set targets and reward with social networking check-ins
– Make homework a family time, where everyone works at the same time
– Work in Fullscreen view, to eliminate ‘visual noise’
– Download Self Control, an OSX app that allows users to block certain websites for predetermined time periods.

Common Sense Media’s article on Managing Multitasking provides suggestions at different age levels, which you may find a helpful starting place. 
5. Access to Inappropriate Content
Don't go there.

At UWCSEA we are of the opinion that educating students about what to do when coming across inappropriate content is the most effective long-term strategy.  We can’t control what people put on the Internet, but we can control our reaction to it.

As part of our school-wide focus on Digital Citizenship, teachers discuss strategies students can use if/when they come across inappropriate content. Some suggestions include:

– Closing the window
– Covering it with your hand
– Changing your search terms
– Letting a teacher know
– Scrolling down the page
– Hitting the ‘back button’

We encourage students to be responsible, and not make a big fuss – the worst thing they can do is to draw attention to it.

6. Kids Knowing More Than You
The short answer is, they probably do! That doesn’t mean they don’t require teacher/parental support in using technology. 
You can help by staying interested in what your kids are doing. If they are interested in a particular game, ask them to teach you how to play. Talk to them about what they like to do. Share your favourite YouTube videos. Just keep the conversations going!

Image Credits
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by zoutedrop: http://flickr.com/photos/zoutedrop/2317065892/
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by nuclear dwarf: http://flickr.com/photos/kafkapie/4182398090/
cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by escapedtowisconsin: http://flickr.com/photos/69805768@N00/3292899689/
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by gadgetgirl: http://flickr.com/photos/gadgetgirl70/136334749/

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi,

    This is such a nice post, putting Social Networking back into a positive spotlight and especially the links to students meeting strangers on the internet.

    I agree that the idea of students managing their distractions is an important concept. It would be impossible for teachers to keep all students on task at all times; managing distractions needs to be part of the 21st century student skill set.

    Keep up the good work,
    Andrew.

    DLC Coach Dover UWCSEA

  2. Mrs Gow says:

    These are all important issues for parents to consider with their children's access to technology. Parents are breaking new ground here – dealing with issues that their parents have no idea about. Your post has a very balanced, non-alarmist approach, in contrast to what we often read in the mainstream media. I am sure many parents will find this useful information to guide their child's use of Internet resources.

  3. J Plaman says:

    Thanks to all the parents who attended this morning's session. Some great ideas were brought forward including:
    -the desire to have a hands on session "Facebook 101" for parents to learn the ins and outs of the tool including managing their privacy settings.
    -lots of questions about Twitter and how we (the DLCs) use social tools for learning.
    -students look at online adverts differently and are likely not as distracted by them as their parents are. They are not typically clicking about, aimlessly surfing. Instead, their online activities have a focused purpose and the look past things that aren't related to that purpose (ads).
    -I'm reminded again that we are lucky to teach such brilliant students at UWCSEA. We observed some amazing conversations including students showing their own live Facebook accounts, how some have installed apps like Self Control to assist them in staying focused, we even watched one student pass along her email to parents at the table before she left so they could contact her for questions.

    Any parents who attended today want to chime in?

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