At a recent Coffee & Conversation we were pleased to welcome guest speaker, Jared Wastler, Assistant Principal at Liberty High School in Carroll County. Mr. Wastler, 2014 Maryland Assistant Principal of the Year, has extensive knowledge and experience with kids and social media. Here are some things he shared with us to help us better navigate the waters of social media with our children.
Social Media: The Challenges
Most parents of school-aged children can remember a time before social media and even the internet. Many of us dabble in this technology to some degree; however, our children have grown up on it and are entrenched in it. This results in several challenges:
Challenge #1: We do not speak the same language. While “digital” is a first language for children, it is a second language for most parents. Not only can the lingo and terminology be confusing to parents, kids have developed their own code system that keeps most of us in the dark.
Challenge #2: Life online is fast and changes at the speed of light. As members of the “2.8 second generation,” children of today have short attention spans and do not like to wait for information. As a result, they have little difficulty keeping up with this rate of change. It is a different story, however, for their parents.
Challenge #3: Knowledge does not equal wisdom. While our children may possess digital knowledge, they do not yet have the life experience to fully understand the consequences of their actions. For example, they may live under the false assumption that if they delete something questionable they posted on the internet, it will disappear. What they do not realize is that it still exists in cyberspace and can come back to haunt them later.
Online Predators: Who is really on the other end of the screen? Who are our children talking to?
Cyberbullying: With the increase in technology usage and the “luxury” of anonymity, this has become a common occurrence, especially among teenagers.
Access to Good Educational Resources: While there are many things on the internet that are not appropriate for young audiences, there are also many sites and experiences available online that are positive and beneficial.
The Opportunity to Establish a Positive Online Presence: The internet is currently the first place colleges and employers go to in order to research prospective students and employees. Therefore, it is beneficial to develop a positive online presence (e.g. creating an online portfolio through the posting of papers, projects, blog entries, etc.)
Social Media Tips For Parents
Be Open and Honest. Conversation is key. Help your children understand that you want them to be safe and aware.
Stay Educated. Things in cyberspace can change quickly and dramatically. Make the effort to stay up to date in order to stay connected with your kids.
Know the “Hidden Map.” While today’s delivery channels may be different, the desire to hide things from adults is timeless. The previous generation’s practice of passing notes behind the teacher’s back has evolved into hiding messages and folders on devices. Kids know the tricks. Learn how to access the data they might be trying to hide.
Help your Child Develop a Positive Digital Footprint. Similar to establishing a credit history, developing a positive digital footprint, or online presence, is a must. When future potential employers type your child’s name into a search engine, it would be much better if their search resulted in more positive than negative results. To achieve this, encourage your children to think carefully about what they are posting on social media sites and publishing on the web. Help them to understand what is appropriate and what is not. In addition, provide guidance in the development of an online portfolio.
Mr. Wastler concluded the presentation with the following thought: We live in a connected world and can get anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse. We need to help our children navigate it.
For more information and further resources, please visit Mr. Wastler’s website at http://www.jaredwastler.com/