When we bought a cellphone for our son, we worried. We worried about how it would affect his brain to be hooked into social media all the time. We worried about online bullying and if he’d be respectful and responsible. We worried that he’d become a video screen monster who never looked up and only grunted in response to our questions about his day at the dinner table.
My teens are still young and new to social media, so until now, we’ve mostly been focusing on the risks. Our main message to them has been to be careful, and that less time online is always better.
My three kids all know the password to my phone.
It’s because I rely on them to play secretary for me when I’m driving. If the phone rings or there is a bing of a text, 99% of the time it’s a member of my immediate family trying to get in touch with something relatively pressing.
I work from home, and I think that means my kids get more sick days than the average student. It’s pretty easy for them to convince me that they need a day of rest if they have a bit of a cough or a slight fever. I admit I’m probably too easily swayed and I do tend to cave in when they look up at me with big sad eyes from where they have swooned onto the couch.
Recently, my nephew, age 12, received a letter in the mail. It was addressed to him personally, by name. Inside was a photocopied article about the powers of a new virility medicine, complete with the usual graphic promises for pleasuring the ladies. The article mentioned a specific “doctor” by name, but other than that, there was no contact information or order form or any other action request. It appeared to just be spam but in paper form.
The other day, a friend of my 11-year-old daughter called the house to make arrangements to get together for a group project.
I admit I was hoping to never get an email like this from the school:
“Some students in your child’s class have been involved in inappropriate online behaviour. Our Student Resource Officer will be doing a presentation on cyberbullying and leading a discussion about responsible actions on the internet. Please speak to your child about his/her activity online.”
I read an interesting Facebook post the other day, written by a teenaged girl. She said quite firmly that it was important for parents to not have their children’s passwords, for their phone or social media accounts. She talked about building trust and how insisting on knowing your kids’ passwords is the first step to them sneaking around online and getting involved in things you wish they wouldn’t.
A Day in the Life of the Jos is a comprehensive digital citizenship tutorial that prepares students in grades six to eight to deal with all of the issues they face when using digital technology – from online privacy, to cyberbullying, to recognizing what’s real and what’s fake online.
I am lucky enough to work from home and have a flexible work schedule, so my kids have always been stay-at-home kids in the summer. They have some daily chores and other special work to do over the summer, but in general they have a lot of free time on their hands.