Now that summer has melted away and our kids are either back in school or about to start, we find ourselves re-adjusting to school year routines. Getting up early, playing taxi for activities and sports, meetings, open houses, overseeing homework, managing sleepovers and playdates, etc. Let’s face it, back to school isn’t just tough on kids! We have a tremendous responsibility as parents to set our kids up for success and to be involved with their academic and social lives to an appropriate degree. In my world, that “appropriate degree” with regard to involvement in my kids’ social lives (if you ask them) should be zero. Because, kids at age 12, 14, and 16 already know everything they need to know, right? A doctor I knew once said this about his teenagers, “the older they get, the dumber I get.”
Given the prevalence of technology and social media in the lives of our kids in this generation, it’s even easier for them to keep us at arm’s length. And, harder for us to keep that door open. So, in the spirit of setting our children up for success this year- digitally- I’ve included 5 key FREE resources that every family should check out below:
Ok, this isn’t necessarily a resource, but something all parents should understand. COPPA is an acronym for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act established in 1998, and it is what restricts most social media sites from allowing users under the age of 13 to set up an account. This law is there for a reason. Just because a child is technically proficient with phones, tablets, and computers does NOT mean they have the social and emotional maturity to handle and manage a social media profile before they are 13. If you are under the impression that “friending” and “following” them solves that problem, you may want to reconsider. So you know their passwords, too. That’s helpful, but how does this keep them from exploring all of the other accounts that are “suggested” to them to “follow?” Accounts that may expose them to content even most adults wouldn’t want to see. Accounts that are not really that harmless looking 14 year old who seems to have similar interests to your child. Remember- you are in control here. Think very carefully about how you want to introduce them to social media. This is a big step that I cannot emphasize enough.
Now to the resources. The Family Online Safety Institute just released their Back to School comprehensive set of resources that I love. Why? Because they do an amazing job of segregating these resources for every age segment from toddler to college. For each age group (toddler, kids, teens, tweens, college), there is a backpack image to click for a host of links full of invaluable information for parents. Advice, tools, videos and resources- this is a great ‘go to’ site every parent should spend a few minutes getting acquainted with to set healthy standards in your home.
A personal favorite, I recommend that every parent also bookmark this site. It is literally a one stop shop/clearinghouse for everything you need to know as a parent – or as an educator- to stay informed and guide your kids to be productive digital citizens. On this site, you’ll find learning hubs with short tutorials that give parents great inside scoop on popular apps, news from all over the globe as it relates to digital citizenship and cyber safety, information about Cyber Civics curricula for middle schools, workshops for parents and educators, and online courses. Feel like you want to know a little more about the latest app your daughter came home from school talking about? This is exactly where you’ll find concise, up to date information.
CoPilot Family (https://www.copilotfamily.com/)
Are you trying to figure out how to manage the time your kids spend on their phones? Have you forgotten the color of their eyes? Are you nervous that you may be more apt to recognize them by the top of their head vs. their faces? You aren’t alone. One of the biggest questions I get is this: “how do I keep my kid from spending all waking hours hovered over his or her device?” The founders at CoPilot Family have this one figured out. The app is free and enables you to essentially use your phone as a sort of remote control for your kids’ phones. Want Instagram to shut down at 8 pm every night? Want to limit access to certain apps on their phones to certains times of day? That’s exactly what CoPilot Family can do- in addition to tracking the general phone activity, sending you alerts, and helping you set up rules and guidelines to ensure your kids really aren’t still cruising Twitter or Instagram when they go to bed.
Because it is simply not very likely that all 932 of your child’s followers are also their friends, there are conversations, events, photos and documents that should be contained privately in smaller groups. Kids should have the opportunity to learn social media, and the standards you set, in a safe environment where children under 13 are guided by you as the parent. Kids should also have a safe, private place to collaborate in study groups, classrooms, sports teams and just groups of friends online. A place where nothing can be shared, re-posted, re-grammed or re-tweeted, and a place where the content they share with all of the different groups they interact with always stays private…not to follow them around when they are applying for scholarships, college, or a job. That is exactly what Frienedy is designed to do- it is the first private, group networking application suitable for users of all ages (COPPA compliant).
Here’s to a productive, successful school year for all of our kids. Let’s do our best to keep them safe, help them grow and set them up to achieve their potential.