Internet Safety Information for Parents
During this school year we have had to help children and their families solve several problems that arose because of inappropriate internet use. We thought it important to remind parents of what they can do to keep kids safe when they access this powerful tool.
Instant Messaging has become the digital communication backbone of teen and even pre-teen daily use. The platform for “IM”, or "texting," has spread to cell phones and other hand-held devices, such as Gameboys. Students who use IM on a computer log on using a "screen name" and can type messages to friends, or participate in "chat rooms" with a group of friends. Most parents know to caution children never to give out personal information such as real name, address, phone number or school. However, many children at our school know each other by screen names and this information is easily passed around.
In addition, your son or daughter may log in under his or her screen name and then give the keyboard, cell phone, or Gameboy to a friend or even a sibling. That person may send messages that your son or daughter disagrees with or even objects to. This can be not only deceptive but dangerous. The fact is that most deceptive, insulting, or abusive messages your son or daughter may receive are probably sent by someone he or she knows.
In middle school, your son or daughter has learned about cyber bullying from the guidance counselors, planning room counselors, and librarians: what it is, why it is wrong, and what to do about it. We have explained to students that in any face to face communication, 80% of the message is in the tone of voice, facial expression, and body language of the communicator and only 20% is in the actual words. Thus is it is very, very easy to misinterpret IM, email, and chat room communication which lack the non-verbal part of the message. What may have been intended as friendly communication or “joking around” may quickly become hurtful or even harassing because of immature judgment in youngsters. In addition, the anonymity that children believe "IMing" affords can quickly embolden them to say inappropriate things they would never say in the presence of a parent or in person. Middle school aged children in particular, because of their inexperience and volatile emotions, can easily become traumatized by mean, threatening or deceptive messages. Meanwhile, the sender of the message might not give the message a second thought once the “send” key has been pushed.
As a rule, text messages, IM (instant messaging) and even email are best used to communicate basic information like planning where to meet, homework assignments, or reminders to check in with parents. We believe that dialogue and extended conversation are best done on the phone or even better, in person because so much of the nuance of the message is lost in the digital medium. Even a phone call will communicate more through tone of voice than the same words on a screen.
By allowing children and teens to use the internet unsupervised you might be risking situations to develop that could hurt your child or someone else’s. Rules and expectations are not enough; your constant supervision and ongoing dialogue about safe and appropriate internet communication are necessary.
Please feel free to call the Guidance Department or Planning Room if you have questions about safe internet use.
Georgene Grover and Chris Dumouchel,
Co-Directors, Planning Room
Guidelines for Parents
Last Modified on October 28, 2009