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Tips for Becoming a Cyber-Savvy Parent or Educator

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April 12, 2021

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.


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Tips for Becoming a Cyber-Savvy Parent or Educator

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Internet technology changes at what seems like a lightning pace, so it can feel challenging to stay on top of it. Do you wish you were a more cyber-savvy parent or educator? Keeping ahead of the learning curve is important in order to teach teens safe and smart online habits.So, here are 7 tips to help you take your cyber skills to the next level:

1. Teach your students to be cyber aware and cyber secure

Eric McGee, Senior Network Engineer, TRGDatacenters

Here are some tips to protect your children from online threats:

  • Teach passwords and privacy: Help your children in developing secure passwords for all of their computers and online accounts. Teach them why strong passwords are necessary, how to build them, and why they should never be shared.
  • Teach appropriate online behavior: Describe to your children what makes an appropriate, respectable (to themselves and others) online post.
  • Protect identity and location: Protect your child's identity and location by turning off photo geotagging on your Android or iPhone and reminding them not to post any personal details online, such as their age, school, address, phone number, last name, or any other personally identifiable information.
  • Use secure wi-fi: To restrict outside access, make sure your home's wi-fi has encryption and a strong password, and only share your password with people you know and trust.
  • Use parental controls: Many children are given their first tablet or internet-connected computer before they are fully aware of the power they hold in their little hands. Use the built-in parental control features to begin taking precautions and monitoring their usage as early as possible.

2. All information online is public even if your profile is set to private

Timothy Robinson, CEO of InVPN

Headshot of Timothy Robinson
Timothy Robinson

With these six tips, I became a cyber-savvy parent:

  • Tell your child what a cyber threat is, how to recognize it, and what signs to look for. Help them in defining and articulating this in their own language.
  • Monitor the platforms your students are using for privacy settings, terms and conditions, and access rights.
  • Adhere to the age limits set by the platforms on different websites and don't let your children access them.
  • Set up a social media or internet use policy for your children using parental control apps so that you are all on the same page about what is a permissible and inappropriate online activity.
  • Keep an eye on your child's online activities and have regular conversations with them about the friends they meet, the games they play, and the risks involved.
  • Even if your account is set to private and other users are unable to see your children, they are still exposed to the information. Assist them in making well-informed choices about the content they consume.

3. Play around on all of the apps your child is on to learn

Stacy Caprio, Deals Scoop

Headshot of Stacy Caprio
Stacy Caprio

One tip to stay up to date as a tech-savvy parent is to download and use all of the newest social applications and tools your kids are using. This will allow you to get a feel for the type of content they are consuming each day, and how they are consuming it.

It will also allow you to have better conversations with them about not only technology but also the world in general. Maybe you can even follow them and tag them in some of your own posts and vice versa to start developing a technology-based relationship with them as well.

4. Subscribe to blogs and sites that teach cyber and media literacy

Matt Weidle, Business Development Manager, BuyersGuide.org

As a parent, I've been continuously subscribing to blogs and social media sites that promote digital and media literacy to keep my cyber-savviness on top of its game.Keeping up with the current social media trends, technologies and apps can be overwhelming as a parent. That's why for me, digital and media literacy is very important. There are numerous blogs and social media sites that help parents stay informed and updated about what's happening in the digital space. These kinds of resources help you increase your digital and media literacy to keep your children safe from the dangers of cyberspace.

5. Use the web to find forums, groups, and tutorials

Headshot of Sander Tamm
Sander Tamm

Sander Tamm, Founder & CEO, E-Student

Visit specific forums and groups: There are a lot of forums on the internet for specific interests and groups of people.

On Facebook, you can type just about anything and you’ll be surprised that there’s a group for a specific interest. Search for groups focused on technology trends, cybersecurity awareness, phishing scams, and more.

Reddit is one of the most popular forum platforms in the world and topics range from educational to inspirational. Be sure to stay focused and search for relevant forums about cybersecurity tips and knowledge.

Be sure to request access to our SmartSocial.com Members Facebook group!Study the current trends/apps/sites: Get ahead of your teens. Download the latest apps. Learn about the newest trends. YouTube is one of the best resources to find a free online course or tutorial on how to be safe online.

6. Set up Google Alerts to learn about all the latest cyber news

Headshot of Lauren Patrick
Lauren Patrick

Lauren Patrick, VP of Marketing, Curricula

Set up a Google Alert for alerts about new phishing attacks and scams that are going around. It's super easy to set up a Google Alert:

  1. Go to Google Alerts.
  2. In the box at the top, enter a topic you want to follow.
  3. To change your settings, click Show options. You can change: How often you get notifications, the types of sites you’ll see, your language, the part of the world you want info from, how many results you want to see, and what accounts get the alert
  4. Click Create Alert. You’ll get emails whenever we find matching search results.

Every day, I get an email with news and articles about what's happening with the biggest cybersecurity and phishing scams to see what 'flavor of the week' these hackers and bad actors are using to convince people to click on something they shouldn't. These are also some basic security protocols everyone should have in place.

  • Be on the lookout for emails, texts, or phone calls from people you don't know. Phishing (email), smishing (text), and vishing (call) are all getting worse. Be sure to tell your grandparents as well, since these scammers prey on the elderly more often.
  • Don't reuse passwords. Every password should be unique and stored in a 'vault' or password manager like Dashlane.
  • Turn on two-factor or multi-factor authentication (2FA / MFA) so that if a hacker was to access your password, there's another layer of security to prevent them from getting into your account.

7. Listen to your students talk about technology and ask other parents

Headshot of Sarah Siegand
Sarah Siegand

Sarah Siegand, Co-Founder, Parents Who Fight

Delegate Some Research to the Experts

There are so many great organizations researching the latest tech developments, app safety guidelines, and social media trends among teens and tweens. As a parent or educator, if you’re on social media, follow these experts! By doing so, you’ll regularly catch their great content and stay up to speed. Or better yet, sign up for their tips and tricks to be delivered right to your inbox. Beat the learning curve by feeding yourself small, regular doses of the latest tech news.

Listen and Learn

Kids will keep you current on exactly what the “in” tech trends are if you just pay attention. When kids start talking about a new app or game, communicate interest by saying, “Show me,” or “Let’s check it out together.” Ask your kids thoughtful questions about how certain features work and engage their reasoning skills to see if they understand any potential risks in the technology they’re using. Probe their knowledge about privacy risks, mature content, and stranger danger in any new app or gaming system. Yes, they may be more cyber-savvy by nature, but as an adult, you are more life-savvy.

Find Strength in Numbers

No matter how technically defunct you may feel, you probably know at least one tech rockstar. And tech rockstars usually like to help people! Tap into that resource. Why not plan a dinner party where a few friends bring their family mobile devices? Over dessert, let the kids watch a movie while the adults get to work helping each other set up parental controls and other safety features, or just sharing knowledge about how things work. For educators, why not plan a special staff party where everyone takes a turn asking questions or sharing tips about the kinds of technology your students use? Group discussions always seem to bring new and needed information to the forefront.

Start Slow and Keep it Simple

We’ve all heard it’s better to do a few things really well than to do many things poorly. The same goes for mastering new technology. Rather than trying to learn about every device platform or all of the latest apps out there, start by diving deeper into one mobile device and two or three of the most popular apps kids are using. Parents and educators of younger children have a clear advantage in being able to more effectively pace their students’ tech appetites, thereby making it easier to stay on top of pertinent risk factors. With younger kids, you can start slowly with privileges and access learning how to protect one thing really well, then another, then another. However, if you are raising or educating kids who are already fully active online and in the social media cosmos, your best option is to talk openly and honestly with them about the risks they face. You may also consider utilizing software that limits access to certain apps, monitors activity, and enables time restrictions.

Don’t Give Up

You may feel that technology is getting more and more complicated, so, therefore, there’s no use keeping up if you’re already behind. However, our responsibilities as parents and educators demand that we stay engaged in our kids’ digital lives. As easy as it might be to wish all of this tech complexity away, it just isn’t reality. In order to protect our kids in the digital world and train them to use wisdom online, we must continue to gain knowledge and understanding about the technology they’re using. Even if you’re only making small steps in your journey to becoming more cyber-savvy, the important thing is to keep moving forward. Don’t give up!

8. Practice cyber hygiene

Sterling Kellis, Assistant Dean of Technology for University of Phoenix

In today’s connected world, it is vital that cybersecurity is top-of-mind. However, we all know that during vacation we can forget to follow best practices, which can leave us vulnerable to cyberattacks.The University survey found that nearly all (97%) U.S. adults own and use a mobile device, yet only 4% said that cybersecurity was in their top two concerns while on vacation. More people cared about the cost of vacation (31%), their personal safety (30%) and even the weather (24%).Using a smartphone while on vacation could mean frequently connecting to public Wi-Fi, which comes with risks. While public Wi-Fi can be convenient and is often safe, people can never know for sure if their connection is encrypted, if the network is being spoofed or what malicious actors are monitoring them.

We know from the survey that few people are concerned about cybersecurity while on vacation, but what’s surprising is that their perception is not likely to change even if it means being hacked.We found that more than two in five respondents (42%) would not stop using their mobile device while on vacation even if it meant reducing their potential risk of being hacked.

R-I-S-K is a simple and easy to remember acronym of cybersecurity best practices that parents can follow when traveling this summer.

R: Run Updates. Regularly update your phone. Your phone is programmed to alert you when software updates are available. If you’re like most people, these alerts probably get delayed or ignored, but don’t do that. These are important because they include security patches to protect against known breaches. Delaying or ignoring updates can make your device more vulnerable to attacks.

I: Initiate Connections. Avoid “automatically” connecting to Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth connections, and GPS tracking. These are great connectivity tools, but when not using them, turn them off. Hackers can create hotspots that spoof Wi-Fi networks.

S: Simplify Browsing. Avoid visiting unfamiliar sites and downloading questionable content - memes, images, or files. If accessing bank or financial information, try to avoid using public Wi-Fi connections.

K: Keep Passwords Secure. Safeguard passwords by updating them regularly, diversifying them across accounts, and increasing complexity.

R-I-S-K is a component of cyber hygiene. Much like how we should clean our teeth and our bodies to preserve our health, it is important that we take similar measures to preserve the health of our data. In addition to following R-I-S-K, download VPNs and passwords managers to help proactively protect against data breaches.

9. Become a cyber savvy parent

Dr. Elizabeth R. Henry Teen Social Media Safety Tips for Parents
Dr. Elizabeth R. Henry

Dr. Elizabeth R. Henry, Pediatrician and Founder of Dr. Liz Consulting

Teens today are masters at multitasking, using multiple forms of technology and participating on social media. It can be challenging to monitor the online safety of my 17-year-old daughter when she is simultaneously checking her text messages, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook page.

However, as a pediatrician and teen consultant, I have learned that the best way to ensure her online safety is to become cyber savvy and have open lines of communication. I am my daughter's friend on almost every social media channel and, if I am not her friend, I have access to her passwords.

My daughter knows that her access to social media is a privilege and not a right, so there are certain rules that must be followed. If she posts something that I don't like, I take the opportunity to have a teachable moment and discuss what's inappropriate and why it should be taken down. The two of us actually have fun interacting on social media. Parental involvement in social media and other forms of new technology is an essential part of keeping teens safe.

Janada Clark headshot
Janada Clark

10. Use tools to monitor your teen social media

Janada Clark, Parent Educator at Clear Path Parent Education

As a parent educator for over 30 years, I support parents with loving and effective tools to decrease conflict and increase cooperation. Parents are uneasy and distressed over their teens’ use of the Internet and social media. Parents with very young children can use blocking software with good results, but not so with savvy tweens.

I have partnered with eyeDactic, a company of engineers and dads from Silicon Valley who have written a software system that monitors a child’s use of the Internet on all their devices. It runs quietly in the background and gives parents an immediate update of all web browsers and URLs the teen visits, their location and how much time they spend on any website or social media.

It is not blocking software; eyeDactic is about the relationship between the parent and the teen. The teen agrees to be monitored so they can prove to the parent that they can be trusted.

Alice Neaves headshot
Alice Neaves

11. Give your teen the chance to prove they can be responsible

Alice Neaves, Parent Blogger at XXX Church

After a recent look at my son’s browser history, I was shocked to find out what he’s been accessing and looking at online. I’ve always trusted him to make the right decisions, but the honor system simply wasn’t cutting it anymore. I didn’t want to take away his freedom and constrain him from being able to access certain pages, but I did want to have a better way to monitor and address the problems I had with these sites.

I pride myself on keeping open communication with my children and have worked hard to create trusting relationships with them. But at a certain point, the friendship has to stop and the parenting has to start. After a long talk about the importance of Internet safety, I decided to install the program X3watch on all of their devices.

X3watch is an accountability software that monitors what my children are looking at and sends me a message whenever they go to sites that I have added to the accountability list. I like it because it gives my children the chance to prove they can make the right decisions when using the Internet without forcing me to install a page blocker.

Josh Ochs headshot
Josh Ochs

12. Talk to your teen about the future

Josh Ochs, Founder of SmartSocial.com

Instead of telling them what not to do and scaring them, talk to them about their future. Ask what their dream school or job is, and get them pumped up about their future—then ask them what they think colleges and potential employers consider when evaluating candidates, whether it’s positive or negative.

This gives them a better understanding of why the tone and content of what they post matters and a tangible incentive to listen to your concerns. They’re probably amazing people in real life. They need to make sure that comes across online in order to make a good impression where it really matters.

Melissa Schwartz headshot
Melissa Schwartz

13. Develop an open line of communication

Melissa Schwartz, co-founder of Leading Edge Parenting

The biggest challenge that parents face with their teens is getting them to open up about what’s really going on in their lives—and this cannot be coerced, because it is so easy for teens to hide, avoid and lie about their lives to their parents, online or offline.

Openness must be developed and nurtured over time and comes through building trust on both ends. One way is to become aware of our emotional reactions when they share their truths with us. If we become unstable, judgmental or fall apart, then we seem untrustworthy. If you want your children to open up to you, the best gift you can give them is to handle your own emotions well and build two-way trust so that online behavior is not kept so secretive.

If you think about it, what children need in order to stay safe online is the same that they need out in the world: tuning into their inner wisdom so that when something doesn’t feel right, they stop and listen to their gut.

14. Host a device free dinner

Weena Wise, Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist, Covenant Counseling Group
Weena Cullins headshot
Weena Wise

Parents truly set the tone for dinnertime behavior. For families who have been device-dependent, start with 1-2 specific device-free days instead of going cold-turkey all week. Maintain a unified stance on checking devices at the dining room door and be prepared with a few topics to discuss in advance to keep dinnertime conversation flowing.

15. Make dinner more engaging than being on a device

Heidi Marzke, Educational Consultant
Heidi Marzke headshot
Heidi Marzke

The best way to enjoy dinner without devices is to make dinner more engaging than anything available on kids’ devices. We like to start with “the day’s high and low” and have each family member share. Doing so inevitably leads to interesting conversations, discussions and debates and before you know it, devices are the last things on anyone’s minds.”

16. Be intentional about having dinner together

Evan Money, Ph.D., Evan Money inc.
Evan Money headshot
Evan Money

Device-free dinners come down to one thing, being intentional. First off, you have to be intentional about having dinner together, sadly most families rarely do that. For example, we chose not to enroll our daughter in an invitation only advanced ballet class, because it wouldn’t allow us to have dinner together.

Secondly intentionality starts with the parents, in the evenings I purposely leave my cell phone in my home office on vibrate. It’s out of sight, out of mind and out of earshot so it won’t interrupt the meal. Your actions speak so loud, your family can’t hear a word you’re saying.

17. Create a device free dinner plan with your kids

Colleen Carroll, Innovative Reading
Colleen Carroll headshot
Colleen Carroll

Families should pass a device basket where everyone contributes their cell phone, including parents. I like Disney’s Circle, which will shut down the internet whenever you program it do so, keeping dinner time wi-fi free. All family members need to be in agreement, so draw up a device-free dinner plan and be sure the kids take part in its creation. Kids should give reasons why this is important so they have plenty of buy-in. Also, what happens if anyone breaks the rules? There should be a consequence that no one wants, like being the dishwasher for the evening.

18. Supervise your student's activities

Antoine Boucher

Antoine Boucher, Founder at BluePoint Technology, www.mykinder.com

We caught up with Antoine Boucher, Founder at BluePoint Technology to ask him about his best Internet safety tips for parents. He was nice enough to share with us 4 simple tips that will keep your family safe.

How many children of todays generation know what a rotary dial phone is?  Not many unless they watch the Retro Channel on TV.  The Internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives that our children will not recall what life was like without it.  Instant messaging has supplanted the way we communicate with each other.  Family photo albums are accessible to the entire extended family if not the rest of the world.   The true impact of the internet has yet to come as our children grow with this immense amount of information at their finger tips.  

Supervise your student's activities

    Would you let your children go about alone in a large city late at night?  Probably not.  Allowing your children to roam around the Internet unsupervised, can potentially lead to inappropriate or even dangerous situations.  Know and get to know where they go, and which applications they use so you can guide them in making safe decisions.

Know when to set limits

    Internet streaming services are rapidly replacing television. Children have access to vast amounts of knowledge and entertainment at their fingertips, and more unsupervised time to explore.

Don’t post personal information

    Posting personal information on the internet means that the information is available for the world to see.   For example, your children posting a countdown about your next family vacation tells the world that you will be away from your home soon.  The same goes for any other information such as school name and phone numbers.
    Regardless of what you are told or what you believe, posting pictures “that you would not want your grandma to see” on your personal account exposes you more often than not, to being viewed by anyone and everyone. By default Facebook allows the world to see your personal information.  Don’t forget to change this setting to protect your information.It is also a good practice to use a nickname distinct from a personal name on Internet related interactions.

Discuss the dangers with your student

    The Internet is enabling your student to interact and learn like no generation before.  Take the time to teach your student your values and why certain decisions may not be good choices for them to make.  Have a conversation about what is inappropriate content on the internet and in emails, and ask them to alert you of any unusual situations or situations that make them feel uncomfortable.

Using Digital Technology in the Classroom video

We asked 5 experts to share their tips about using digital technology in the classroom. Watch the interview where Josh Ochs, Founder of SmartSocial.com asks these questions: 

  • What are your best uses of technology in the classroom?
  • How do you manage meeting the kids where they are at?
  • Do you have advice for teachers who are entering this brave new world?
  • What about managing screen time that is self-initiated-- that is not on task? Like texting in class, or just like not paying attention because they're playing some new app?
Headshot of Lee Fox
Lee Fox

1. Use technology to enhance the instruction

Lee Fox, PeerSpring

I work mostly with high school students, so my answer is focused on them. What I love about technology in the classroom is, all of a sudden, it starts to get loud, and the energy changes, and as educators sometimes I think, uh-oh, but also we realize that is active learning! I feel that there’s a huge opportunity that educators have in managing screen time by actually leaning in and giving the students an opportunity to use their technology that actually furthers the assignment or the work. Is technology a tool that I could use to keep students engaged?

Just one example, we were working with a classroom that was having students stand up and do presentations, and we had a polling technology that was added in. The students were giving peer reviews, with their phones on who was giving the best presentations. In those kinds of moments, you realize, that you're not having to worry about what they're doing on the phone, because the students are excited about putting their piece of the puzzle into that use of the phone, as opposed to just sitting back and listening to their fellow student’s presentation and being bored, instead, with their phones, they got to be active.

Well, I love using free choice with the students. Like, how do I use Instagram in the classroom, or Twitter, or Snapchat? I think that one of the best ways to do it is, again, having the students come up with ideas of how to leverage the tools they are already using for their own assignments. And also, honing in on the fact of everything that you're creating digitally is a digital artifact that actually promotes who you are, your story, what your capabilities are, it proves your next-step-readiness. So, “What tools would you all like to use if we were looking at whatever your assignment is?”

Everything that you're creating digitally is a digital artifact that actually promotes who you are. –Lee Fox

They will they will help you come up and craft the assignment. It’s really cool because then they're into it, they've already bought into that assignment. How would Romeo and Juliet communicate today? Then they get into rap songs, they’re using YouTube, or whatever they're using. It's the excitement again, that active learning that we love to see that happens as a result of asking those questions.

2. It's important to be tech savvy

Elizabeth Medina, Google

Headshot of Elizabeth Medina
Elizabeth Medina

I think as educators, it's important that we be tech savvy, so we can leverage the tools available to us to facilitate learning, and working with technology. I think it’s more important now than ever because when this generation of kids graduate from college and they’re looking for a job, there will be more jobs in computer science than any other field, in every state and in every industry.

It will be a whole lot easier for them to be successful at work if they have a strong background working with computers and using computer science. So, it's like it was mentioned, the energy in the room changes when a kid learns to code things, like an app, or an animation or a website.

I think it's great that as educators we can empower students to create wonderful things and really help them learn how the world around them works. Computer science is a skill that can be used at any age. Students can use it today to write their first book report, or they can use it later in college to build a website for a fledgling business to help pay their expenses.

A way you can be an advocate for students who might be in the lower income bracket or might not have as much access to technology, or who might be really excited to learn and really in a place where they are ready to learn and their classmates might not be, would be to start a computer science club at your school. Anyone can do that, especially people who are in classrooms working with children.

There's curriculum online and you can really be a game-changer for a student in terms of introducing them to a potential career path that could be really rewarding for them down the road.

3. Teach students the tools and let them explore

Jayme Johnson, Village School

Headshot of Jayme Johnson
Jayme Johnson

One of the important things I think for educators to remember is, you need to teach them the tools, then you need to kind of give them free rein and let them use the appropriate tools. So, very often with my students, I’ll say, “You're learning, your objective is to learn XYZ. You can demonstrate that however you'd like. Figure out how to show me you've learned something, it could be a poster board, it could be a Google slideshow, it could be an animation that you code in Scratch. It could be a song that you write, it could be a something that you design in 3D printing”.

So, however you choose to communicate your knowledge, that's what we need our students to learn because when they get into college and into the job market they need to be able to pick the best tool for the job.

It’s also ok, and it's hard for teachers, but it is also good for them to be comfortable to say “It’s ok that I don't know”. It's okay to say you don't know, and it's even better to say, “Let's learn together”. And to model how you research and how you learn. I had a student ask me a question and my reply was “I don't know, and no one's ever asked me that question, let's figure it out together”.

And so, I opened up Google, and, without pre-searching, I just did a really good keyword search, and we skimmed the results and just narrowed them down - ‘ok, these first three won't work, but this one has a good summary, let's click it on it.’ So I modeled to them, how to develop good keywords, how to do a quick search and then how to learn the answers to the questions that they had.

I would say don't use it as a babysitter. Technology is not a babysitter we don't like our parents to use technologies as a babysitter so you shouldn't do the same thing in the classroom. Classroom time is very valuable and you don’t want to squander it. But at the same time, be mindful of your curriculum, and what’s the outcome and the curricular goal you have for your students, and then decide which technology tool to use, or whether to use technology or not.

Be mindful about your purpose and your outcome and then kind of backward design your lesson, what do you want the learning outcome to be, and then how can you best leverage the technology to achieve that goal.

Rethink how you set up your physical environment to promote students using digital tools in a productive way.

Teachers cannot sit at a desk in the front of the room and have student’s devices open. So, I'm changing the setup of your classroom, the physical layout of your classroom, it’s an important thing to do. If your students are on Chromebooks or laptops or tablets, set your classroom up in a way that you can see everything, put your desk in the back of the room or set it up in a horseshoe shape, or just walk around. You cannot just be stationary at your desk anymore.

If your students have tablets or phones, it’s a little bit trickier, but if you're constantly walking around, your presence is the best, the most powerful tool you can use. If they know that you could walk by and look over the shoulder at any moment, they are much more likely to be on task. Really rethink how you set up your physical environment to promote students using digital tools in a productive way. It might have to change the way you teach, and it changes the way you plan your physical environment, as well as structure lessons. If you just say “We have a 45-minute class, write your paper”, and then go sit at your desk, that’s not going to be a productive use of time.

4. Tackle different problems with tools available

Headshot of Marcella De Vivo
Marcella De Vivo

Marcella De Vivo, Gryffin Media

I think understanding that teachers don't have to master all the tools, they just need to be familiar with them, get pretty good at one or two that are their preferred choice and let the kids guide them in the ones that they like too. Then, together come up with a good way of tackling different problems in the curriculum, based on the tools available. And there’s new stuff coming out all the time and students are the ones who keep up with that. The students can propose different tools that they're using, new ones, that teachers may not even have. But kids will tell them, “This one you need to pay attention to.”

TeenSafe is helpful. It started as a monitoring tool and that was what they’ve done for five or six years, and then about a year ago, they developed the “pause button” because they realize that you can monitor all day, but you can’t monitor everything. And kids get bored. So, this button is so cool.

The parent will connect it to their phone, and then they will schedule, or physically just say, “Okay, you're in school, it's 9 o'clock, you’re supposed to be in class”, you literally pause it from your phone, and it just shuts down all of the apps. You can choose which ones it shuts down and which ones it doesn’t. It's amazing because the kid will still be able to call if they need to call for emergencies but anything else is just unavailable.

5. Screen time isn't always a negative thing

Headshot of Joi Podgorny
Joi Podgorny

Joi Podgorny, Good Social Collective

Teachers and parents rely on tools and videos to help with managing screen time. Screen time isn't a negative thing but there are times when students don't need to be on a tablet or their phones.

This post is an excerpt from the 2017 Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for educators, law enforcement officers and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students shine in the digital world.

How to Become a Tech Savvy Parent or Educator video

Every day there is a new app or network that gains popularity among teens and parents/educators can sometimes struggle to keep up. In this panel discussion, 6 experts share their best tips for becoming tech savvy including, how to manage new technology, techniques for talking to digital natives, and more.

Watch this 38-minute video of the panel discussion or read the synopsis of the answers below:

How would you help parents whose student wants an app because "everyone" has it?

Elizabeth Medina, Google

Headshot of Elizabeth Medina
Elizabeth Medina

I think kids are smart, so if you engage them in conversation like, “How do you think this app could be used for good, how do you think it could be used for evil”, or simple questions like, “What did you see online this week that made you happy”, and “What did you see online this week that made you sad?”.

And really get your own kid thinking deeply about the potential negative and the potential positives of things they want to engage in and want to be part of, I think that could preempt a lot of the problematic uses of some of the apps kids are using.

What would you say to the Educators who are becoming digital stewards to this generation?

What words of wisdom or tips do you have for us to go out and become the tech savvy stewards to kids who are digital natives?

Elizabeth Medina, Google

As a kid, I was told, “Think before you speak,” and now I think the message would be more, “Think before you share”. Just making sure kids understand, what they say or do online can affect them and their friends offline. That sometimes a text is a little bit more permanent.

They might want to think of it like a tattoo or like those semi-permanent tattoos kids get. Maybe if they say something that’s a little cruel, it could stick around for a little bit longer and it might be harder to repair that in a relationship. Just to emphasize how important it is to have good judgment because things that are put online can stay around for a while. Also, to emphasize it, more foresight is needed since there are platforms where more people can be reached and things can be shared more widely.

Alex Abramian, Forcefield

Alexandria Abramian
Alexandria Abramian

Students feel like a big part of their life is going away when parents restrict apps on their phone. Getting involved late means dealing with the ramifications of children who have had unfettered access to technology.

Basic TV and radio provide certain constraints to the content that they release but social media and technology do not.

Sarah Siegand, Parents Who Fight

Headshot of Sarah Siegand
Sarah Siegand

I think when I was a kid there were parameters that I understood what was safe in my neighborhood. Those broaden as you grow and become more mature because your judgment becomes better.

But, when you become an adolescent, sometimes your judgment is impaired so you need to take those preteen years very seriously, big time. If we take the long view of it, it's not always going to be conversations fixing problems each and every time but stewarding kids is making deposits, over time, when there's not high emotions.

You’ll know when you see the fruit of that work appearing, you have to just patiently work to see the results.

Kirsten E. Hoyt, University of Phoenix

Headshot of Kirsten E. Hoyt, Ed.D.
Kirsten E. Hoyt, Ed.D.

I've seen it with my own kids, it’s the things that you model. Because they won't do what you tell them to do, they'll do what they see you do. You just have to grow, and understand that we've actually always preached in education, this notion of lifelong learning, that you need to be a lifelong learner.

With this tool we now have whether it's your phone, your iPad or your computer, we truly have a way to enable that. I can learn to paint, I can learn to roller skate, I can learn the concepts of riding a motorcycle online, I can get that just-in-time learning because somebody's probably created some video somewhere for me to do that or written an article.

So, take the good, right?  

Lee Fox, Founder & CEO of PeerSpring

Lee Fox
Lee Fox

The internet is no different than a neighborhood. There are parts of it that are great and safe and that’s where your kids should play and there are parts that are not safe. I think that some of it is also educating your child on the concept of digital citizenship and digital empathy. And what responsibilities we have when we go into different neighborhoods in the real world and parallel them with what happens to them in the online world because they are not actually as different as we like to think.

Mercedes Samudio, Parenting Coach at The Parenting Skill

Mercedes Samudio
Mercedes Samudio

There is also this idea of having to do too much as a parent. I think sometimes parents feel like they're busy: “I got to make sure they eat, sleep, get their homework done, put their clothes on, don't die, like I have to do all of this and I also have to figure out how to use this iPhone”. I’ve found that one of the things to do is to acknowledge that. Talk to parents. Let them know, “What is it that you like to know today?”

Instead of saying, “Go educate yourself”, ask what they would like to know, today. They might say, “I don't know how to put the parental controls on”, or, “My iPhone and iPads are great, but how do you do the parental controls for Netflix and Hulu?” A lot of times my parents don't know how to deal with the game systems. Almost all the game consoles you can get online with now. They’re like, “How did my kid talk to someone in Istanbul on their Xbox?” Well, this how they did it, and then we'll talk about it that way.

So, I think for us as educators, it’s not enough to just say, “Hey, here's some stuff. Go look at it”, but to say, “Hey, you know it sounds like you're really stressed out. What do you want to know?” And then they’ll say, “I want to know about Netflix control”. I'll give them that information, they’ll go fix it and come back and say, “Give me more”. That's what I’ve noticed. It's been really helpful to lower that barrier of: Where do I start?

How do we teach our students how to develop empathy over text messages, emojis, and gifs?

If I say to you, kidding, “I hate you”, we understand I’m kidding. But if I type it, it can easily be misunderstood. How do we help our kids develop emotionality, or empathy as they type things out?

Sarah Siegand, Parents Who Fight

People dedicate their lives to studying how to develop empathy. I am reading a good book called “Unselfie”, by Michele Borba. It’s about helping your kids develop empathy. I love how she talks about really helping kids name their emotions from a young age so you know what your kid is telling you when they say, “So and so hit me at recess”.

You can ask, “Did you feel unsafe? Did that make you angry? Did it make you upset? Were you trying to defend somebody else?” Helping them understand their own emotions is a very offline thing. Hopefully, we can start using those building blocks and helping them to self-identify their emotions, that will be something that they will be able to use.

I think reinventing the conversation about the meaning of the word “friend” is huge and as parents, we model that for our kids. So, I tell my kids, the people who are in my friend feed are actually my friends! These are people I know, people I want to talk to, people I want to hang out with. I do have a public persona where I can connect to strangers but I think that that friend conversation is really big because then, if you are helping their peer circle to be safer then they will feel like they can have those peer-to-peer accountabilities and jump in and help each other.

And it's not like, “Oh this dude in my math class who's a total jerk, is my friend on Instagram and he is really mean”. Time to ask, “Why is he even in there?” Helping kids set boundaries. Boundaries are the bedrock of healthy relationships for your whole life and so teach them that from the very beginning, of what it really means to be a friend.

This post is an excerpt from the 2017 Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for educators, law enforcement officers and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students shine in the digital world.

Additional Resources

Teachers and parents, learn more about the educational platform, ClassDojo

Online Scams: What Parents Need to Know & Expert Tips

Reddit: A Guide for Parents & Educators


Although it might feel overwhelming to consider the seemingly boundless reaches of technology, it doesn’t have to be. There are more resources available than ever before to help you become a cyber-savvy parent or educator, and every journey begins with a single step. Lean into the expertise of others (even kids!), start slow and simple, and don’t give up. In doing so, you’ll discover new confidence to help you conquer the tech learning curve.What cyber-savvy tips do you have to help other parents and educators? Share them in the comments below.

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.


Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

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