Today’s post is by guest author and CPLS Guidance Counselor, Melissa Gossard.
Anyone ever feel the challenges with keeping up with the latest app, video game or website that our children are begging us to use? Have you asked questions like “Is it safe?”, “Is it developmentally appropriate?”, or “Is it necessary?” Have you ever had a discouraging moment with technology and felt like running away to an electronics-free island to raise your kids?
The struggle is real, indeed. However, one of the many opportunities we have in the CPLS school/home partnership is to help each other in this “raising a child in the way he/she should go” adventure we are on. You, the parents, share valuable feedback with the school that helps us connect with your child best and likewise, we, the school, try to share with you areas of success and areas of need for continued growth. Neither of us do it with perfection and it isn’t always the easiest dance but it is a dance worth dancing.
Instead of exhausting both home and school with discussing every cyber issue at once, it can be healthier to engage in periodic discussions to keep us aware. It is my prayer this blog simply prompts a discussion in your home about cyber safety with your children. We all know our lives are influenced and, in some ways, even dependent on technology and the internet. Our children are growing up in a day and age where technology has become a standard form of connection and communication. We would all probably agree, it has its benefits and risks. I know CPLS families have varying stances of the amount and type of technology they want their child(ren) to have exposure to, so the purpose of this blog is simply for awareness as we work to guide our children through each developmental stage of life. There are a few popular apps to be aware of if your children have access to apps via a tablet or smartphone. A specific app that I want to discuss is called Afterschool.
- This app is specifically designed for messaging between teens only to help teens have a “safe” place without parental involvement. The app encourages confessions and compliments. There have been some additional filters added for “sexual, drug, and profane content”, however, there is a 17+ access to allow for sexual content.
- Apps such as Afterschool, Kik, Yik Yak have been linked to bomb threats, sexting, and/or cyber bullying.
- Many of the apps, like Afterschool, advertise anonymity from parents which sends up red flags to potentially push parents out of helping their children navigate the difficulties of adolescence. It can send the message to our young people they should be seeking counsel from cyber space peers instead of their parents.
- Many young people using this app think what they post and share is anonymous. Their identity is hidden from others (red flag because of lack of accountability) but Afterschool can and will share their personal information with the police.
- There is a crisis text line that reportedly provides round the clock help for a child in crisis if a message posts of at risk behavior like self-harm and suicide.
- Remind children to seek Truth over how we connect and communicate with others. Remind them there is NO complete anonymity on the internet and anything they personally share with someone via the internet can be shared and potentially used against them.
- Remind them that when we are living in the dark or in secret, the enemy likes it and God’s light, Truth and love are harder to find.
Luke 8:17 “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”
1 John 1:6-7 “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
- Remind them authentic and safe friendships keep only good secrets (I know what you are getting for your birthday or who you have a crush on), not secrets that include a need for an adult’s care and guidance.
- There is not a substitute for trusted parental advice and they should not look to the internet to hear from someone they have never met and could be totally different than whom they claim to be.
- Remind them engaging in a secrecy app is risky with the potential to harm them emotionally and physically. It has happened to innocent young people many times already.
- Encourage young people to remain honest about anything that appears wrong, scary or strange with adults they trust.
- Keep talking to your children so they know they can indeed come to you with problems and concerns. Avoid allowing them to isolate with their devices for extended periods of time.
- If you allow your children to use social media and apps similar to the ones mentioned above, consider app safety plans and don’t be afraid to check in on their activity.
- Remind children that young people’s brains are not fully developed until they reach their mid-20’s. Adolescence is often a time of struggle with impulsivity so, at times, their judgment in the moment isn’t always what they wished it would be even 10 minutes after the decision was made. This very fact is a reason for them to be cautious when engaging in internet friendships and interactions.
- Teach and guide your child to the appropriate response if they are sent content that looks sketchy and/or inappropriate and make it a family rule for them to ask for permission to participate.
- Connect with other trusted parents and the school if you encounter a negative cyber experience that could be useful in making others aware to protect and help our children.
Again, this blog is not for alarm but rather awareness. I value discussions that help us partner together in attempts to guiding our children towards healthy relationships with parents, peers, teachers and the Lord. The most important effort is to remind our children the safest people (next to the Lord) for them to confide in are YOU, their parents. It is also a good idea to have them list other trusted adults they can confide in if you aren’t available or there is some kind of conflict going on between you and your child. No matter the age of your children, they need us. The cyber world offers connections with others in both good and bad ways. Let it not take the place of us connecting with our children.