Tech Bits: Safety in a virtual world

Dana Castine, the District’s Director of Technology, Math, and Science, shares her advice and expertise each month in Tech Bits.

Technology is a wonderful asset and an amazing educational tool. Never before have students had access to so much knowledge, inspiration, and data at the touch of their fingers.
An elementary girl in her classroom works on a chromebookDevices such as smartphones and tablets also keep parents connected to their children, enabling parents to reach their children anywhere and anytime with a simple text or a quick call. Even the youngest of children now have their own devices as parents increasingly rely on the convenience and connectivity.
But technology – the internet, especially – is far from a perfect place, and students need our guidance to protect them from the pitfalls of that world. Meanwhile, it can be almost impossible for parents to keep up as children and teens move from one app or platform to another – as soon as we figure out Facebook or Instagram, our kids have discovered Snapchat or some other social app we haven’t even heard of yet.
The virtual world can be a complicated, and parents need multiple strategies to keep children safe. Here are some basic tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help make sure their use of technology is a positive experience:

  • Talk to your child. Parents ask their children where they are going and who they are going with whenever they leave the house. They should take the same approach when their children go on the Internet. Where are they going and who are they with?
  • Develop rules. Together with your child, develop rules about acceptable and safe behaviors for all electronic media: don’t talk to strangers; don’t share personal information; and tell you if someone is bullying or behaving inappropriately.
  • Explore the Internet on your own. Visit the websites and research the apps your child visits and uses, and assess the pros and cons. Bookmark them and visit them often.  Many websites and online activities are beneficial. They help young people learn new information and interact with people who have similar interests. Others less so.
  • Talk with others. Speak with other parents about how they have discussed technology use with their children.
  • Continually talk with your child about the new devices and websites your child is using.

Taking an active role in your child’s use of technology, their online activities, and their digital “life” will help build a parent’s digital wisdom and help protect children while they get the best out of what a vast virtual world has to offer. Additionally, parent involvement with technology assists with raising responsible digital citizens with a positive digital footprint. Stay safe out there!

The Florida Union Free School District Office of Technology, Math, and Science has set up a special-email account for questions, suggestions and concerns. Email us at TechBits@floridaufsd.org and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. You can also call 845-651-3095 x30015.