Assessing Safety in a High-Tech World

By: Dr. Jay M. Drew Last Updated: November 21, 2014

Portage-Township-Schools-LogoFor many adults, the children in our lives seem to be significantly more tech-savvy than we are. Between smart phones, tablets, smart TVs, laptops, computers, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, Pinterest, and myriad other devices and apps, it can be very intimidating for the uninitiated to try to understand.

Unfortunately, despite their comfort with technology, teens, pre-teens and children often lack the decision-making skills and understanding of consequences when it comes to the use of technology and social media. As parents, guardians, teachers and leaders, it is our responsibility to help students understand how technology and social media can be a benefit to our lives, but also where they need to be careful in its use as well.

If you have children under the age of 13, you need to be aware that websites, apps and providers are under the strict regulations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and most simply do not allow children under 13 to participate or have a very obvious parental permission process. For example, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest all prohibit children under 13 from having accounts. Apple and Google are already offering parent-approved accounts for iTunes, iCloud, Gmail and the Android store but they come with very strict rules.

Once a child reaches 13, they are no longer covered under the rules of COPPA but are just as vulnerable to the negative aspects of social media. It now becomes our duty to present to them the benefits and risks of participating in online and social media related activities.

Some key things that we can use to help keep our children’s (and our own) technology and social media experiences positive include:

Don’t give out passwords, don’t tell your computer/tablet/phone to remember your passwords, and don’t forget to log out of your accounts when you’re finished. Online accounts don’t get “hacked” nearly as often as many claim, they just happen to leave their account open or give their friend their passwords and end up paying the consequences.

Change your passwords often. Yes, it’s annoying having to remember all those passwords. But if you tend to use the same password for everything and it gets out, you’ll wish you’d changed it.

Think before you post anything online. If it’s something that you might not want everyone in the world knowing, don’t post it.

Don’t take your personal value from your social media status. Just because you have 634 “friends,” 1,245 followers, or 68 “likes” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re popular and liked. Conversely, if you don’t have lots of “friends,” followers, or “likes,” it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re disliked.

Even more important is that we take time every day and every week to unplug and step away from the tech. You won’t miss anything important if you take an hour or two to go outside with friends and family and just enjoy a beautiful day or sit down together over dinner without texting or tweeting for 45 minutes. Try it, I think you’ll like it.