I recently attended the Academy’s Coffee & Conversation event with Deborah McCoy about internet safety and the use of social media. Ms. McCoy has been involved in anti-bullying and internet safety programs for over 25 years, working closely with schools, youth organizations, and law enforcement agencies. Spending the day at the Academy, Ms. McCoy presented to a group of parents representing all division of our school, followed by small-group sessions to Academy students in 6th through 12th grade.
The overarching message of Ms. McCoy’s presentations was that everyone needs to understand and be cautious when using the internet and social media platforms – this includes parents, who should be aware of and engaged with their students’ exposure to and use of these tools. She said that it is not only the right, but the duty, of parents to monitor their students’ use of social media. For a child’s safety, I believe, as does Ms. McCoy, that a child’s privacy cannot take precedence over his or her well-being. During her presentation with parents, Ms. McCoy said that students often perceive it as an invasion of their privacy when parents monitor these modes of communication, but her advice: persevere anyway.
In the past, I have written about the value of establishing routines that help children manage increased expectations as they grow and develop. I again advocate for establishing routines that will create an environment that allows success in monitoring internet usage. The first ‘routine’ I would suggest is establishing a regular, honest conversation with your child about the social media tools available to them. Talking with your child from an early age, about anything, not only creates a bond that will last through adolescence, but also creates an environment where you can address your role in protecting their safety – a role where you will always be involved in these areas.
The second ‘routine’ I would suggest is creating an environment in which your child understands that privacy is a privilege granted, not a right mandated. Children should learn from an early age that privacy cannot overrule safety. I know that establishing these routines will not eliminate all of your child’s arguments for privacy as they get older, but I believe these routines pave the way for more meaningful conversations about your role as not only a parent, but as a protector.