In the past two years, I have presented to over eighty-eight thousand students on the topic of Internet/Social Media Safety and Digital Citizenship. Our presentation has become very popular and although youth education is important, so too is parental education specific to this topic area.
You would think that given the importance of this topic our parent presentations would be jammed packed, but sadly they are not. Anecdotally, on average, it is not uncommon to see less than 10% of parents, of a school’s total student population, attend our parent’s presentation. Ask any principal or PAC president; getting parents to attend education nights, no matter what the topic, and no matter how well advertised, is always a challenge. I have heard all the reasons “why” parents are not attending, which have included:
- I know the information already
- I have other commitments that night
- I have been working all day and I was just too tired
- There was a playoff game that night on T.V. that “my team” was playing in that I couldn’t miss
- I don’t let my kids go on the Internet so they will be fine
- My child doesn’t go onto Facebook
- It’s the school’s responsibility to educate my child about this topic not mine.
It is the last point that has spawned this posting. I have found that too many parents abdicate their responsibility, specific to Internet/Social Media Safety and Digital Citizenship, to their child’s school, which in my opinion is absolutely wrong and something that I call being willfully blind.
Here’s the reality in my opinion, if parents provide the digital technology, then it becomes their responsibility to provide both the training and parental oversight to ensure that our kids use it responsibly. Given that I am a full time law enforcement officer and a parent, I like to use the analogy of driving;….. before we give the keys of our car to our kids, there is a process that most parents follow that usually includes:
- Academic testing
- Hands-on training, and then
- Behavior hands-on road testing
If our child is successful in both academic and behavioral driver testing, then here in British Columbia they move into a “graduated” licensing process, where there is still “oversight” for one year before they are tested one more time. If your child passes this last testing, then they are awarded their license usually without restrictions.
When we provide our children with digital technology, such as a smartphone or laptop, like it or not we are providing them with the keys to a digital information highway, and Just like a real highway, without driver education, training and overwatch, serious accidents are more likely to happen.
Before parents provide digital technology to their children, they need to first educate themselves about both the desirable and less than desirable outcomes that come with providing this technology, and then pass this information onto their children in combination with parental oversight and rules. I would suggest to the reader that this is not happening to a large extent, and therefore the weakest link in the online protection process.
Parents need to step up to the plate on this issue and start parenting, because we are the primary foundation when it comes to the online (and offline) safety and security of our children. This starts with educating ourselves about this very important topic area, and it is not as hard as you think.
Do schools have a part to play in this protection/education process, “YES”, but their role is tertiary, and parents need to stop placing so much responsibility and blame on their child’s school when it comes to failing to educate on how to drive and navigate the Internet and Social Media information highway, when we are providing our children with the digital keys to operate the virtual car.
The blame squarely falls on our shoulders, the parent, because we are the ones providing this powerful technology to our children without self-knowledge, education, training, and parental oversight on how to use it responsibly. As a result, schools are now left with the responsibility of supervising and policing these digital keys, even though the student has never received any kind of “ digital driver training” from the parent first.
Parental knowledge, and the understanding and application of that knowledge, is power and the keystone specific to topic !!!!!
The Digital Sheepdog
For those parents who are looking for “free” information that will help to educate on this topic area, please head over to:
Image source: Aspire Parents