JACKSON TWP. Monitoring internet and texting activity for kids and teenagers has become a new part-time for parents these days. With the number of online outlets growing, temptations for young kids and teens to get involved with various activities online has become more prolific and more intense.
Sauder Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Group (PTG) and Lake Cable Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) invited Jesse Weinberger to speak at the high school for a adults and parents-only presentation on Internet safety on March 8. Weinberger is a nationally recognized Internet safety presenter, TEDx speaker and author.
She has been presenting to school districts across the country since 2003. She’s frequently sought out by media, educators, parents, administrators and law enforcement for guidance on how to manage the digital lives of children.
Laura Henson, president of the PTG, said the group decided to bring the speaker in after Amy Cornell, Sauder’s guidance counselor, brought Weinberger’s latest book to her attention.
"Amy and I read her book and then Amy and I went to Aurora High School last fall to see the presentation," Henson said. "We thought it would be good information for our parents and community to hear and invited her last October to come and speak to our community."
More than 150 people attended the Jackson presentation. Henson said everyone stayed for the question-and-answer session which lasted for more than an hour.
"All the feedback that Amy and I have heard has been 100 percent positive and the participants were glad to have seen the presentation," Henson said.
Weinberger told the audience there are dangers lurking around almost any type of online activity from something as seemingly safe as uploading a photo to Snapchat to uploading live streaming videos.
"It’s important that we all need to be educated about internet safety," Weinberger said. "You may think that I hate technology by the end of the presentation tonight, but I don’t. There is tremendous value in technology for education, testing, college prep and employment. I don’t consider things like Snapchat to be part of technology. Where technology takes a turn for the worst is how parents manage the issue at home with their kids."
She told parents that kids have grown up in a world of instant gratification making any sort of delay a negative. Her research shows that parents give in to pressure from their kids, but they also give into parental peer pressure from other parents. Weinberger encouraged parents to make rules regarding technology and online use and then stick to the rules.
One of the rules Weinberger suggests is "the grandma rule." If your grandma, pastor, priest, principal or a police officer can’t view a post or a text, then it shouldn’t be allowed.
"Parents should never assume they don’t know any sexual predators these days. It’s just never okay for adults to share naked or sexy photos or images with kids," Weinberger said.
A few of the online channels Weinberger warned parents about include:
- Google – she said google offers content versus answers and that content can impact a person’s attitude, beliefs and thinking.
- Don’t believe that all technology related activities have value, be skeptical.
- Never allow an adult to ever follow your child or teen on Facebook, Twitter or other channels. She said adults outside of the known circle of family and friends shouldn’t be allowed to follow a minor, ever. Only adults who are under a parent’s supervision should be allowed to follow them.
- Professional photos or group photos where a child or teen can get tagged can become a danger.
- Parents should never accept anyone talking to their child online or in other situations in a sexually aggressive manner. Weinberger said this type of language has become the new norm.
- Kids should be monitored on youtube because they can accidently end up viewing sexual videos.
Weinberger has found that devices such as smartphones are being given to kids at younger ages, some as early as second or third grades and it has created some disturbing statistics such as:
- Younger kids are now engaging in the riskiest behavior, more so than the older kids. Weinberger said that kids are viewing online pornography starting at age eight and some have become addicted by age 11.
- Kids as early as the fourth and fifth grade are sexting.
- Kids and teens shouldn’t take photos of themselves or other kids or teens and post them. It’s illegal for a child or teen to take a provocative photo of another child or teen just like it’s illegal for an adult to take a similar photo.
- Snapchat photos only appear to be deleted. They remain on the hard drive of a smartphone and can be downloaded by law enforcement.
- Youths can be charged as a sexual predator for photos on Snapchat and other online channels.
Several of the latest online outlets Weinberger suggested to parents for monitoring include:
- You Now
- Hot or not
- Yik Yak
- Pokemon Go
- Apps called Vault that look like something simple like a calculator but is used to hide suspicious online sites
Weinberger suggested these ways and others to protect kids and teens:
- Never use real names for usernames.
- Don’t allow kids to use sexy/sexualized user names.
- Never list city, school or profile of a picture of a child’s face.
- Review browser history a few times a week on all devices.
- Compare each icon on each phone or device to the description of the app from the appstore.
- Go through lists of followers and following to make sure you know each person.
- Never allow adults you don’t know to follow you children on social media.
- Go into private messaging modules and read messages.
- Don’t allow open chat or videoconferencing on gaming sites.
- Check all games for sexualized content.
- Prohibit live streaming and check the browser history and all apps for live streaming.
- Cover the camera lens on items such as baby monitors, laptops and smartphones to prevent someone from hacking into the Wi-Fi to view activities going on in the household.
Ten texting lingo for parents to know:
- LH6: Let’s have sex
- M/F: Male or female
- A3: Anywhere, anytime, anyplace
- Broken: Hungover from alcohol
- CUF6/CU46: See you for sex
- GNOC: Get naked on camera
- GYOP: Get your pants off
- TDTM: Talk dirty to me
- WTTP: Want to trade pictures
- WYRN: What’s your real name