The trouble is that educators, administrators, online web tools, politicians, and parents just aren’t sure what that looks like yet. And a consensus isn’t likely to be reached anytime soon. Either way, we must educate students and ourselves as parents and adults about the expectations we have of youngsters and teens when they are online and about the digital footprint they leave behind.
Most dangers can be avoided if children and their parents learn about smart Internet use, as Weston Police Department administrators and school authorities have pointed out in recent times.
• Talk with children about the benefits and risks of the Internet. Ask them what they do online, what websites they visit, who they chat with, and what games they play.
• When possible, go online with your children. Have them show you their favorite websites, online games, and chat rooms.
• Go online and look at websites, chat rooms, and blogs that your children might visit. This will help you identify what you think is important to discuss with them. Make a list of any websites you find that you think your children will enjoy and share it with them.
• Keep the computer in a busy area of the house.
• If your children tell you that they saw something inappropriate online, don’t blame or punish them. Remember, how you react will affect what your children share with you in the future.
• Consider using a filter, blocking, or ratings system for your computer.
But as you proceed with caution, don’t overreact, as some adults, especially parents, tend to do. And it’s not even the new social media, texting and tweets that are the major outlets for concern. That’s still an old technology — TV — as Ms. Albright noted.
Too often media creates hysteria about Internet predators, leading school districts to respond to adult worries by blocking any kind of social networking while failing to highlight the positive aspects achieved when students collaborate online as part of a global community.