If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — Your child has been begging for a smart phone for a while now. Should you give in?
Chris Hahn, Elk Mound middle school principal, says “not so fast.”
Hahn was one of the presenters at the Elk Mound school district’s Community Awareness night November 8.
“Some of you have children who are approaching the age where you wonder if you should purchase a cell phone for them or not. I would say, the longer you can delay that, the better,” Hahn told the group of parents who had gathered in the Elk Mound High School library.
“I promise your children are going to survive without it, even though they probably think they won’t. They will tell you they are the only kid in school without a cell phone, but I promise you they are not. We were probably all raised without cell phones, and look how great we turned out,” Hahn said.
The audience responded with appreciative laughter.
“You are in charge, no matter how much kicking and screaming. If your kids are frustrated, you are probably doing the right thing. You have to hold strong,” Hahn continued.
Hahn said he had done a survey with sixth through eighth grade students last year and asked them to tell one thing their parents did not know about social media and technology.
“I learned a lot. It was eye-opening,” he said.
Kids say their parents do not know that other kids have sent “really bad messages to me.”
The students also said people send pictures to them that they think they should not be sharing or that they are being pressured to send pictures that they do not think they should send.
“It’s not everyone, but it’s there,” Hahn said.
Kids get a different perspective with a screen. They do not see the other person’s reaction to what they’ve said. They type it and send it, he said.
“I try to talk to kids a lot about how maybe 90 percent of your communication is non-verbal, your facial expressions, your tone of voice,” Hahn said.
Students nowadays are suffering from more anxiety, and Hahn said he did not believe it was because of pressure from school.
“They are dialed in 24/7. When I was a kid, I was involved in a lot of sports. I loved sports. My parents let me do all of those extracurricular activities. I was so fortunate to be with my friends all the time. But when I went home, I went home. I was with my family. But now our kids are with their friends all of the time. They can Snapchat. They can Tweet back and forth. They can do all of those things, and they never really have down time. They can never get away from that stress. When you take away a cell phone, it seems like the world is going to end,” Hahn said.
The school district has a program called Aristotle that monitors key strokes typed into computers.
If a student is in the library and types in an inappropriate word or a swear word, “I’m going to get an e-mail,” Hahn said.
“I know what time it was done. I know which account it came from. I know whose computer it came from. I know that instantly,” Hahn said.
“If kids are logged into their school email at home, and they do something inappropriate, I will still get an e-mail about it. It’s amazing to me, when we talk about how much sleep kids need, that they are getting pinged at one in the morning or two in the morning,” Hahn said.
What to do?
As a parent, there are many things you can do to help ensure your child’s safety with cell phones, other Internet technology and social media.
Here are some of the suggestions from Hahn’s presentation:
• You are in charge of what technology your child uses — not them. They need your help to set guidelines and boundaries for them.
• Delay access — the longer parents can delay access to cell phones and social media, the more time a child will have to mature.
• Moderation — slow down usage, set time limits and set up parental controls. Do not allow any technology in your child’s bedroom. Set up the computer or allow cell phone usage in common spaces, such as the kitchen, dining room or living room.
• Keep an eye on the clock — they will not. Do you know how much time your child spends on social media and technology?
• Plan to spend time together as a family. Teens who are strongly attached to their parents and family show more overall happiness and success in life.
• Set consistent bedtime routines and keep electronics “locked up.” School age kids and “tweens” need nine to 11 hours of sleep per night. Students ages 14 to 17 need eight to 10 hours of sleep a night.
• Teach your kids “netiquette” and “the grandma rule” — would you do it if your grandmother was looking over your shoulder?
Ask yourself if your child is ready for social media.
Social media replaces learning the face-to-face social skills they need to be successful in real life, Hahn said.
Mike Van Slambrouck, the Elk Mound school district’s technology director, says there are programs and utilities available to help parents limit their child’s screen time.
Apple has an application that is built into operating systems to allow parents to set time limits and to set times when they can access the technology, he said.
From the parent’s device, you can give continued access and set time limits on your child’s device, Van Slambrouck said.
On the “Google side” there is Google Family life that allows you to control the Google environment, he said.
If the students are on the Elk Mound school network or Elk Mound school devices, social media is locked during the day and opens up at 3:30 p.m., Van Slambrouck said.
During school hours, students cannot access social media unless they are on their own access, he said.
Some of the applications to watch out for are ones that allow kids to hide content on their phones. If you click on the icon, it will ask for a password, he said.
One application is Whisper that allows kids to share secrets with a random group of people. Instagram is an application that allows you to share pictures that could be inappropriate content. Tumblr is Instagram “on steroids,” Van Slambrouck said.
Other applications are “Secret Calculator,” which at first glance looks like a calculator application but is not, and “Hide It Pro,” he said.
Follow your kids
Hahn recommended that parents follow the accounts their children are using.
Parents should know how to use them, too. Create accounts and communicate with your kids using those accounts, he said.
“You will learn a little more of the ins and outs of those social media applications,” Hahn said.
On the survey, students said they had accounts their parents did not know about. The students also said their parents were sometimes not aware that applications had private and public settings, he said.
And some of those applications have GPS trackers. If the application is set to public and has a GPS tracker, someone can figure out the location of the cell phone, Hahn said.
“What I have learned is we have to be pro-active and educate our kids on what is an appropriate use,” Hahn said.
“The more we can live in their world and understand their world, the easier we are going to be able to help them navigate and avoid some mistakes,” he said.
Set strict boundaries from the start.
“It will be easier to loosen them up than it is to tighten up on the boundaries,” Hahn said.
Kids want to see how many “likes” they can get on something they posted, and the more “likes” they get, the better they feel about themselves, he said.
“By working in tandem, we can hopefully protect them. We can’t protect them from everything, but we can protect them from something that could jeopardize their future,” Hahn said.