Sylvania school parents attended an information session Wednesday presented by the City of Sylvania Police Department on how to keep their children cyber safe in the digital age.
“I would not want to invite someone into my home to engage or have interaction with my son, yet [computer technology gives] capability to access them,” Sgt. Justin Music said.
He explained how Internet access can be obtained, not just through computers and mobile devices, but also through video game units such as PlayStation and Xbox 360, and that strangers often play games live online, chatting with their game mates as they go.
“You don’t know if that person on the other end of the microphone is someone across the globe or a 40-year-old down the street trying to gain access to your kids,” he told a group of parents.
In the Cyber Parenting Night, hosted at Sylvan Elementary School, he outlined guidelines and steps parents can take when it comes to digital devices to not only safeguard their kids from bullies and other perpetrators, but also from themselves.
He spoke about apps that are popular with teen sexting, such as Snapchat, where a photo can be sent to someone and disappears within seconds, giving the appearance that the receiver cannot save it. But the security is false, he said. The receiver can take a screen shot of the photo and save it “forever.”
“You’ve lost control of that image forever. Once it’s sent out, it’s gone.”
He told the group that he has seen incidents of cyberbullying and sexting in Sylvania Schools. He stressed that although parents want their kids to have the latest gadgets, they should make it difficult for them to make poor decisions that could harm them or tarnish their reputation.
Some of the main guidelines he gave parents to monitor their children’s digital activity included:
Sergeant Music also reviewed phone and computer software products that monitor activity and set levels of security. He suggested using guidelines, limits, and communication first before taking the “spying” route.
More importantly, he told parents that kids will grow up just fine even if they don’t have all the latest gadgets like their friends. He used his family as an example. He did not allow his eldest son to have a smartphone until he was 18.
Parents Eric and Angie Kemp, who have four boys, ages 16, 14, 11, and 8, said they already implement most of the suggested guidelines in their household. They are considering keeping phones in a central location at night and limiting usage.
Mr. Kemp was okay with having his children dislike some of the rules.
“You know dad comes out worse than the mom, but it works. We can’t be kids’ friends," he said.
School counselor Pam Bennet said that even in the elementary schools they see disputes started through cell phone use.
“Kids text each other late at night, then they come in school in the morning and argue about what was said through text … it disrupts the learning environment,” she said.
For the complete list of guidelines and more information about preventing cyber bullying and other harmful online activity, call the City of Sylvania Police at 567-455-0749 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.