This post is an excerpt from our 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. All of the content from the Digital Citizenship Conference is available as a Virtual Replay Ticket.
Here are the experts who contributed to this blog:
What are some basic security problems?
Hashtags are the worst thing that you can do if you want to keep your account private. –Tim Martin
Hashtags are the worst thing that you can do if you want to keep your account private, as is pinning the location of things. If you post something from your house about something that happened at the zoo with your children and you have the location setting on, then you’re showing people where you’re posting the picture from, so all that information is out there.
–Tim Martin, Huntington Beach Police Department
Any one of those questionnaires, they’re all public, whether you’ve got your Facebook settings to private or not. –Kirsten E. Hoyt
How many of you have answered Facebook surveys? Or a questionnaire that one of your friends has posted, that says “Hey what’s your dog’s name” or “What’s your favorite food”, or “Where have you lived” or, any one of those questionnaires, they’re all public, whether you’ve got your Facebook settings to private or not. You are giving away free information. Every one of those is designed to capture some sort of data or information around you and it can all be used, so be careful, right? Don’t answer. I don’t click on anything on Facebook. –Kirsten E. Hoyt, University of Phoenix
Everyone’s got a Snapchat or an Instagram or a Facebook if they don’t have all three. So, I think the really important part of a parent talking to their kid is, the kid shouldn’t be finding out about bad stuff for the first time on the internet. ‘I really think it’s important that the parents, at some level, depending on the kid’s age and everything, sits down and goes over: “This is why we want the location setting off”, and “this is why we don’t want you to be tagged in photos”. Because, it doesn’t matter how locked down your kid’s account is, you’re only as weak as your friends, and your friends can tag you in a picture, drinking beer at a keg party, and you don’t even know it exists, but you’re tagged in it. It takes constant diligence on the part of parents. –Tim Martin, Huntington Beach Police Department
It only takes three pieces of photographic evidence to pinpoint you. –Jayme Johnson
It only takes three pieces of photographic evidence to pinpoint you and I’ve carried that back to my school and it’s something I talk to parents about all the time. If you’re in your school uniform, in front of your house, people can get a lot of information just from one or two photographs. –Jayme Johnson, Technology at Village School
What are some tips for better communication with our kids?
Positive screen time gives me such a better connection with my kids. –Alex Abramian
I feel like one really compelling way for parents to have a better ongoing conversation about the digital world is to meet their kids online. There’s research about co-playing on apps and video games that show when parents and kids play together it can have an amazing impact on families. Especially “tween” girls who play video games with their parents. There was a study in Utah and these girls had increased confidence that they brought into their school work after playing video games with their parents. I think a lot of kids are dying to share their online world with their parents and maybe parents don’t want to play Minecraft or Pokémon Go, which I can understand, but I feel that being the person that says “yes” to online interactions with my kids, in addition to the person that also says “no”, gives me a lot more leverage. There are some apps that I absolutely love like Word Bubbles. I found that the positive screen time gives me such a better connection with my kids. Recently, when my daughter put Musical.ly on my phone because “everyone at school has it.” I allowed it on two conditions: We set it to “all private” and, I told her, “You could have Musical.ly, but it has to be on my phone.” She was able to sign off on that because I hadn’t said no to everything. Small steps! –Alex Abramian, Forcefield
There are a lot more teens than we think that are not using passwords, not locking their screens. –Nimisha Jain
As a teenager, what do you want to do? You want to be cool and sometimes being cool means nothing too straight edge, not having all the rules in place, not doing all the things you’re supposed to do. I think there are a lot more teens than we think that are not using passwords, not locking their screens, allowing plenty of other people to know their passwords, or play on their phone. And that’s a good gateway to a world of trouble. So, finding a middle ground where, yes, they can have some flexibility and freedom, so maybe they do share their passwords. If that’s going to happen, you have to accept it, but make sure all their apps are on “lock” or change the passwords, make it really difficult to log into Facebook. Another thing that makes this more fun, is if you can introduce things like picture passwords, especially for the younger kids so they can just make it a habit every time they say “hello” to their phone they have to draw a :-) This will make them used to the fact this interaction begins with unlocking a phone, that’s what I do with the younger crowd. –Nimisha Jain, Google
I think not underestimating our kids is really important and having these discussions in the calm times is also very important. Common Sense Media did a survey recently, almost fifty-five percent of kids themselves said that they spend too much time online. I think that it’s really powerful to involve them as stakeholders in the time management discussion. I think if we can have this discussion with kids in the calm times and have them be stakeholders… you know there is a lot of talk about internet contracts and those are sort of destined to fail because everyone’s needs of what they are going to do online are constantly evolving, so it goes back to the continual conversation. I think listening to kids and their own questions about self-regulating online is important. We all have issues with self-regulating online. So, let the kids have a voice in it, and be the parent. –Alex Abramian, Forcefield
People are just living more of their lives through their smartphone and how it tethers us to low self-esteem and all these issues. I would say that there’s really interesting information about that out there, that says what your kids do off-line, is going to determine how they behave online. So, really pay attention to that offline behavior that has nothing to do with their smartphone. There was a group of kids that were studied in Italy, those that stayed in organized sports. They didn’t experience cyberbullying less, they experienced at the same rate as kids that didn’t participate in sports. The difference was, it didn’t escalate. The fact that they were involved in sports and they had an identity not solely based on how many likes they were getting on Instagram but maybe they had a coach, or they had a skill that was entirely offline that provided inoculation to protect them from when a cyberbullying incident normally skyrockets. So, I feel like the conversation, while we do want to have settings in place, so you make sure kids are safe while they’re online, I think that we really need to preserve a lot of these offline activities that have always rooted kids in identity and family and skills and all those things. I think that will ultimately provide way more than spyware or any of these things, it will provide the true protection for kids. –Alex Abramian, Forcefield
What are some safety risks that kids encounter with smartphone use?
A lot of the kids I talk to get their drugs from Craigslist, and this is extremely important for parents to know. –Erica Spiegelman
As a drug and alcohol counselor, a lot of the kids I talk to get their drugs from Craigslist, and this is extremely important for parents to know. I had a client recently who was from somewhere else, and her first week here, she relapsed, she found drugs, and I asked her “Who do you know, how did you get these drugs?” She said, “It’s Craigslist, you just put in ‘Black Tar Roofing’, and that is heroin”. In a minute, she had a call back, in ten minutes, he was meeting her to sell her heroin. This is prevalent for any drug out there. Craigslist is one of the ways that teenagers and young adults who want to find drugs, find them, and I’m sure there are other sites out there so if your kids are on Craigslist, ask them, you may want to see how familiar they are with that, so be careful and be mindful that that is going on. –Erica Spiegelman, Addiction and Wellness Specialist
It’s not just Craigslist, it’s Backpage, it’s the new List It, it’s everywhere. There are even cases of Pokémon Go. If I want to set a lure out, then this applies to not only drugs but predators and people who want to rob people, they’ll take the Pokémon Go app and they’ll put a lure out and what a lure is, you pay some money, you put a lure out. It’s guaranteed to have the little critters out there for the kids to come and catch and get their points. So, anyone could do this, anyone could pay to put the lure out and there are several cases across the country where predators and crooks who put the lures out to catch kids and they do either for predatory reasons or for stealing their phones. Hey, you want to get a good iPhone real quick? It’ll get all these kids to come by with these phones. –Tim Martin, Huntington Beach Police Department
The time online is important. The more hours kids spend on social media, the more likely they are to be exposed to cyberbullying. So, it’s not that you can’t be on Facebook or Snapchat, it’s that it has to be a reasonable amount of time. When you start getting into these really high users, where it’s going into more than two and three hours a day, those are the people who, their instances of cyberbullying, both sides, victim and perpetrator, skyrockets. So, that’s information that I think kids can actually hear and respond to if they are armed with the information. –Alex Abramian, Forcefield