The recent and alarming situation with the girl from Edmonton found in Oregon has given families pause for concern. These events do happen in our communities and parents must do what they can to ensure the protection of their children by being aware of their online activity.
I came upon an article written by a middle school principal about how parents can support their youth to be safe, protected and educated. He writes:
1) Know what your adolescents are doing on Social Media. When I say know, I mean scroll it with them, ask them to share their DMs with you, be linked to them, ask them lots of questions, maybe even consider a program like Bark. (And the second they refuse, pull their phone- technically, no matter who pays that bill, 13-year-olds don’t have registered mobile devices- YOU do.)
2) Ensure that they are not connected to people they don’t know IRL. Ask them questions about the people they do know. Don’t be afraid to speak up to other families if you see their kiddos doing sketchy things online.
3) Educate yourself about the apps and platforms they are using. Have accounts yourself. Know how to use what your kids are talking about, no matter how uncool they tell you you’re being.
4) Ensure their profiles are created as “private” AND that they stay that way. As I have said to adolescents and parents, “If I can find your child’s account, so can icky people.”
5) Actually observe the age restrictions for different Social Media apps.
6) Repeat items 1-5 REGULARLY. It’s not a one and done situation. What they do today they can undo tomorrow and then you’re no further ahead and they are no safer.
7) Start today- be open-minded, caring and most of all, be the thoughtful and “protective factor” adult they may not think they need, but they well and truly do.