July 2012

Your Parenting/Leadership TOOLKIT… [since 2003]
Talking Technology – Staying Connected

– informed parents = informed children –

Dear parents-2-b, moms, dads, caregivers, social workers, support group leaders, grandparents & educators of children between the ages of 0 to 18 years old.

Talking TECHNOLOGY/the Digital Language – useful tips and info 4 parents.

As a parent of 2 boys I find the digital language a huge challenge in my house but I have made the choice to be aware of how to embrace and control the digital language before it controls me and my family. Scroll down for these useful tips that I borrowed from Life Talk Forum [www.lifetalk.co.za]

1. Before buying your child a device consider the following:

· Why are you buying it?

· Do you know its capabilities?

· Have you discussed rules of usage? E.g. where does the device sleep?; how many hours per day?; what access are you going to have i.e. safety vs. Privacy issues; is it allowed on during homework time?

· What other limits need to be considered? e.g. budgetary

· After discussing ‘rules’ explore appropriate, implementable, fair consequences to be agreed, when rules are broken – it is best to write them down in order to avoid any future misunderstanding! Consistent and firm implementation of these rules and consequences (as hard as it sometimes will be) is encouraged in order to not lose credibility with your teen!

If you have already bought the device, still consider the above!

2. Potential dangers associated with internet access & cell phone devices.

Whilst many teens enjoy hassle-free on-line interaction, there are a number of issues we as parents need to be aware of in order to ensure that our children stay safe online. Below we highlight a few.

· Cyber bullying “is the use of modern communication technologies to embarrass, humiliate, threaten, or intimidate an individual in the attempt to gain power and control over them.” (Glenn R. Stutzky). This can take the form of any of the following: texting nasty messages/images; prank calls; publishing and sharing inappropriate images; happy slapping (when cell phones are used to take photos or videos of your child whilst they are being physically or verbally abused); emails, sms’s and mms’s; CHAT ROOMS (fellow users may say rude or hurtful things to or about your child); social networks e.g. Facebook or MXit (nasty messages can be posted); interactive games (fellow player may block or ignore or say nasty things).

· Sexting is the sharing of explicit photos using an electronic device, usually a cell phone. Children caught sending such images could be arrested and charged for the distribution of child pornography whilst the recipient of such material, arrested and charged with possession of the material. (Refer to the Films & Publications Act, 1996 and Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 – usually referred to as the Sexual Offences Act).

· Chat room is a ‘meeting place’ in the virtual world which enables people from around the globe to communicate in real time in order to share interests, socialise and make new friends. There is however a dark side and we highlight some areas to consider: possibility of your child being approached by an adult masquerading as a ‘peer’ in order to lure them into offline meetings; they falsely appear genuinely interested; keep up-to-date with teens’ fashions, music and activities; may lie about their age; open chat ROOMS can quickly migrate to semi-public and then private chat rooms, to email, sms and then direct contact via cellphone.

· Pornography via cell phones or computers is freely available. What starts as simple curiosity can lead to viewing very graphic material. It can easily become an obsession and an extremely hard to break addiction, not unlike addiction to ‘crack’ (hence the term ‘crackberry’ vs ‘blackberry’). It has been likened to allowing our children to stroll into a brothel.

· Understand chargeable content e.g. ringtones, games, DATING SITES, logos, erotic messages and wall paper.

3. Points to explore with your children

· Netiquette– online behaviour vs. offline behaviour. Is it appropriate to behave differently online vs offline? If not, why not? What is appropriate online behaviour in your family?

· Digital footprint – what do they want their online reputation to be? What sort of online behaviour could negatively impact their reputation? How can they guard against getting a bad reputation? Advise them to not post anything on the internet that they wouldn’t show to their granny! Advise them that despite the fact that they may have deleted an image/sms/video etc off their device, once posted, they remain in cyberspace.

· Sharing of personal information and or pictures – just as they are not encouraged to ‘talk’ to strangers in the real world, give them similar advise in terms of disclosing any information of a personal nature online; to only accept somebody as a friend on-line if they know them as a friend off-line.

· If they ever feel threatened in any way that they should immediately bring it to the attention of an adult they trust.

4. Could your child be at risk? Some of the signs…

· Exhaustion in the morning and/or struggling to get up could indicate that their sleep is being disturbed or interrupted due to communicating into the early hours of the morning

· Withdrawal from real time friends; virtual relationships becoming more important than face to face relationships

· Obsessive sending and receiving messages to such an extent that this begins to interfere with their ability to effectively get on with their daily activities

· Difficulty concentrating for solid periods

· Loss of interest in hobbies, sport, exercise etc

· Grades slipping at school

· (Please note that the above signs are not mutually exclusive to internet/cell phone excessive use but could be PRESENT for a number of other reasons)

5. Points to ponder as parents

· How is your online behaviour perhaps setting the precedent for your child’s online behaviour and/or how is it impacting on face-to-face interaction with them?

· How much time do you spend on social network sites?

· Of that time, how much of it is done during family time?

· What kind of pictures, jokes or pornography do you have saved on your phone that could be viewed by inquisitive eyes?

· How much time do you spend talking on your phone whilst with your children?

· Can you remember a time when your child needed your attention and you were either surfing a site on BlackBerry, checking a comment on Facebook or downloading emails?

· Would your child describe your cell phone as one of your most valuable assets?

· How obsessed have you become with communication and technology?

· Have you ever thought of switching off your cell phone during family time/dinners?

· What does your cell phone say about you?

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Have a great week! Go loud, go POSITIVE, go PROUD!