We asked a Parent University member, Valley Hildebrand to share her best internet safety tips. She is a mother of two girls 10 and 12 years old and an 18 month old son. Learn how she works to be the best mom she can be and know all the apps her children use.
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Internet safety tips and key takeaways:
- When students begin to realize that they need a better digital footprint, it can’t be fixed. Students need to be careful of what they post
- Strive to have a solid understanding of digital citizenship before giving your children access to devices or social media
- Parent University helps families start a conversation about social media, explain why it’s important to be cautious when posting, and stay safe online
Why did you join Parent University? What is the biggest frustrations you have that led to joining the University?
I was over at a friend’s house and she asked if my kids have phone restrictions. I didn’t know what she meant, and that was the start for my family. We started looking at screen time boundaries and I’ve set some restrictions. I was already a user of Instagram and Snapchat, which are the two big ones for my 12-year-old. Instagram and Snapchat is starting to be my 10-year-old’s’ interest as well. So I joined them so that I could keep an eye on what is going on. Being on Instagram and Snapchat helped me pay attention to what was being posted and what other kids were posting. However, I realized I don’t know much about the apps. I didn’t know how they worked but Instagram kind of became easier to understand. On the other hand, I have no idea how to use Snapchat. What’s posted disappears, and I have a hard time understanding how it works. I have a husband who’s a schoolteacher, he teaches ninth graders. He comes home and imparts things that are going on with kids nowadays. How kids behave on social media. Ways that kids post that are destructive and risky to themselves. He also shares how social media is being controlled and viewed inside the schools. I started to realize that I have to begin focusing on social media and digital safety. My friend recommended Parent University, I checked it and was very impressed with what I saw. I was so relieved to find a way to learn these apps and have a conversation with my kids on why they are dangerous.
How has Parent University helped your family?
The biggest thing that I found out is that children like taking inappropriate pictures of themselves. They post it because they think it disappears. That is not true, someone can take a screenshot of their photos and send it to other kids in school. Then it reaches the parents, who reprimands their children for being friends with these kids. The repercussions have been bigger than what kids realize. They don’t know that there is a possibility that these images will not disappear in five seconds. My understanding is that Snapchat images are kept in storage and can be traced back to the original user. So, later in life when you start wanting your image to be different, it can’t be changed. Some kids are sending images about teachers while they’re at school. Some of those posts get pulled up and when the teachers find out about them the kids get suspended or expelled. There’s definitely some big dangers that can happen and affect your education, your school, and those sort of things.
Parent University opens the doors for conversations. Even being the one that likes the picture or being in the background of the picture triggers the conversation. All of those things matter. Having a better understanding of digital citizenship allowed us to open up the conversation with our kids and ask them questions about the things that are happening. Asking our kids, “what are some crazy things your friends have posted and how did that make you feel when you saw that picture of your friend doing that?” has helped our family tremendously. We found our kids making spam accounts which they thought were safe because the accounts didn’t have their name in it. Parent University helps us explain to our kids how everything they do is connected to them and represents them. It’s been helpful and we’ve been through the videos on Parent University with the kids. It allowed us to say this isn’t something that we’re getting for you, this is for everyone. We encourage our children to focus on the positive and talk to their friends about it, help them be better, and have a better future.
What would you say to parents that don’t watch the videos in Parent University with their kids?
My ten-year-old has a device with Wi-Fi access and she wants to do everything her big sister is doing. Our question was, do we allow her access to the same social media and apps her sister is using? What we’ve realized is that social media is even worse at 10 years old because as a middle schooler, they start to worry about what people think about them. They start becoming a little more interested in their appearances but she’s ahead of that. We have to have conversations with her about recreating what she’s seen in magazines or on TV and explain the repercussions to her. When she’s at a friend’s house with Wi-Fi we have to know what’s happening outside of our supervision.
For my generation, social media is new for us. We don’t know how it works and what the dangers are. My husband and I tried to be aware on how we’re using social media. It has definitely opened our eyes to start paying attention to what’s happening. I wish that we had known about Parent University and to be conscious of what’s happening before giving our kids devices. Now we’re having to undo some things.
What’s one tip that you’d give to parents?
I definitely think slowing down a little bit and taking the time to learn the basics. Crawl before you walk. Learn what your children are thinking and how you can come together. Mistakes are inevitable. Focus on opening the doors to have a simple conversation, slowing down, and taking time to break it apart. Start building good fundamentals. It will get easier as you go.