What can parents do to keep children safe in this technology driven world?
It was that question from a group of parents at Mitford School that prompted an open discussion about social media and the Internet earlier this month.
“I think it is really important to address those issues that parents want to hear about and want to know about – all that information will only help those kids,” said Jaimie Anton, one of the parents behind the initiative.
“A big part of it is being proactive and educated.”
As part of the Hot Topic series hosted by Stepping Stones to Mental Health, in partnership with Rocky View Schools, approximately 20 parents attended the talk earlier this month, initiated by the parent council to educate other parents and caretakers about social media, bullying and how to handle situations.
“We hate cell phones – they are very invasive and we find they are the biggest source of bullying around,” Nancy Dutchik, principal of Mitford explained to the crowd of parents on April 11.
“Kids are so anxious nowadays – when you say ‘no’ you are setting healthy boundaries, a computer is a helpful tool but (cell phones) are a toy.”
During a presentation from Jennifer Ingham, a Telus representative and Cochrane mother of three, the crowd discussed their children’s obsession with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
One parent shared a story of discovering his daughter was bullied online. When he confronted the parents of the accused, he was met with denial from the other father about his child’s involvement. Another dad shared how he asked his daughter to delete her Instagram due to privacy concerns, his daughter’s only response was, “Do you know how long it took me to get 25,000 followers?”
When Ingham suggested following all of your children’s social media accounts, one set of parents said they had seven kids.
“How am I supposed to live my life through my children,” the father asked.
Throughout the discussion parents offered tips, such as no phones during commute drives, random spot checks allowing parents full access to their child’s phone at any time, and no phones at supper or night.
“We have this huge need to be updated but we don’t need it. We need to teach there is a time and place and live by the examples we set for our kids,” Dutchik said.
It was also suggested parents set up a pass code to lock cell phones, in case it is ever lost or stolen, and monitor privacy settings on all social media to have limited or no public access to a minor’s accounts.
A follow-up meeting will be held on May 2 to further explore social media and the issues surrounding it.
“We are just trying to help parents build understanding with the complex youth today,” Dutchik said.
For more contact Mitford School at 403-932-4457.