VANDALIA — Technology can be a double edged sword for children and teens in our society. Which side a child lands on depends not on the technology, but how its used.
That was the message to parents at a presentation on social media at Butler High School on Monday. The presentation is part of an ongoing effort in Vandalia-Butler Schools to educate parents and children about the dangers of technology and social media. Those efforts were stepped up after a series of incidents involving inappropriate photos being sent or received by students earlier this school year.
Steve Smith, the founder of A Wired Family, talked with parents about how technology has led to a distracted society and how privacy cannot be assumed when on social media or smart technology.
“Technology is a wonderful thing,” said Smith. “It’s not the technology, its the use of technology that causes problems.”
Smith, who began his career as a high school teacher and coach, has spent most of the past 30 years involved in the information technology arena and has seen technology develop from the inside.
He had four recommendations for parents. The first was to talk with their kids when putting technology in a child’s hands.
“Plan for the device, set rules of engagement, and sign a contract,” he said. “Don’t model poor behavior such as texting while driving or having a phone at the dinner table. It’s not that popular to say, but the number one thing I hear from kids is that mom and dad don’t talk to me like they used to. Mom and dad are on their technology as much as I’m on my technology.”
Smith said parents should enforce technology-free zones.
“Kids are getting phones as young as nine years old and they are allowed to take them into their bedrooms overnight,” said Smith. “The overwhelming number of inappropriate photos and conversations take place under your roof in the child’s bedroom or the family bathroom. You may not want to hear is, but that’s just the facts.”
He also said parents need to control passwords to iTunes and the Google App Store.
“If you have given your child a device and given them free reign to download apps, that’s not good. By sixth grade they are downloading ghost or vault apps that look like a calculator but they hide apps the kids have, all of their photographs, all of their videos, and many of the conversations they are having.”
Finally, he recommended using parental controls including those that are built into the device but also third party apps.
“If you do those four things, I guarantee you that you are 97.5 percent good,” he said.
For more information, including videos with helpful tips about the latest trends in social media, visit www.awiredfamily.org.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.