This blogging gig is amazing. From the new friends to the review products to the relationships made with brands — everything is good. My fave part above everything else is attending events for causes near and dear to me.
I have blogged extensively about my passion for keeping kids safe online.
When I first went online I was a married 20-something. The extent of my online life was checking e-mail once a month — I had very few friends who had e-mail accounts back then. Come to think of it the internet was a nicer place back then. Very little spam. I kind of remember single digit e-mails in my in-box. Can you imagine! Viruses became more of an issue as e-mail entered the workplace.
I don’t know when I first heard about online predators targeting young children, but I am sure I was shocked to the core. No amount of training can prepare you for the shock and outrage of crimes against children, tweens, and teens.
I was thrilled to be invited to the Cox 5th National Teen Summit on Internet & Wireless Safety in Washington, D.C. I was anxious to hear what the teens had to say about online safety. My daughter is a young teen. As the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family, she is a trailblazer. Anything she does whether academic or artistic or online is subject to scrutiny. We want to give her the tools necessary to do everything safely.
The teens were inspiring. The teens told how they help the teens and tweens in their community navigate the internet, Facebook, cell phone use, sexting, and many other issues. The teens were emceed by the awe-inspiring John Walsh. Questions from twitter were handled by @KeyInfluencer AKA James Andrews. Andrews asked the teens probing questions. Walsh challenged the teens to give precise, fact-filled answers. Many of the teens head up groups dedicated to teaching online safety in their high schools or at boys and girls clubs.
The Cox Teen Summit covered many topics. I took copious notes. There was one main theme brought up throughout the summit. Schools need to teach kids about online safety as part of the curriculum.
- Sexting is still a big problem for tweens. Teens see younger kids as having too much freedom with cell phones.
- Walsh urged that kids as who walk to and from school or take a bus need a cell phone — even if they are as young as 7-8. He cited a couple of recent abductions where kids who walk/take the bus to school were stalked. Could have used phone to call for help.
- Walsh said if Mom/Dad were worried about cell phone abuse by younger kids Mom/Dad could block all calls except emergency or calls to Mom/Dad.
- Teens suggested prepaid cell phones.
- Walsh “Texting is the crack of teens.”
- Walsh, Andrews, and teens love Oprah’s Texting Ban. Have you signed the pledge?
- Fact: Texting while driving causes more accidents than drunk driving.
- What’s on the horizon for online/wireless technology? Video chat on phones.
Internet and Social Networks
- Do a Google Alert for your kids to find out what they are doing online.
- Start and continue a dialogue with your kids about what they are doing online.
- Most of the teens have friended their parents.
- All of the teens had taught a family member how to use Facebook.
- Teens talked of learning what to post and what not to post on their walls.
- Andrews told teens “to think about what they are putting up on the internet.”
- Teens talked about how everything they post online could be viewed by college admissions and potential employers.
- Teens asserted that “Privacy is a Privilege.”
- Walsh: “It is time for parents to parent up and find out what their kids are doing on the internet.”
- Parents, teachers, and kids need to learn Facebook privacy settings, so that they know how much of their profile is available for review.
- Walsh ” Teens and tweens give up too much information about themselves.” Bad characters are out there waiting to find vulnerable teens and tweens.
- Teens asked “How much is too much information?”
- Everyone hates ChatRoulette — lots of “creepy guys” per Walsh — and Formspring.
- There should be a policy of anonymity in schools so that students can report bullying without fear of retribution.
- Walsh said that America’s Most Wanted doesn’t trace or tap calls. People can call in without “fear of getting in trouble.”
- Teens said there should be safe rooms at school where kids can go for help.
- Cyber bullying and regular bullying are very different. Many school counselors are not trained to deal with cyberbullying.
- Kids need to be taught how to use social networks.
- At one time it was an option for kids to be on Facebook, now it is a given that most teens will be online in social networking sites.
- Teens need to be taught rules for online behavior.
- Teens talked of experiences with identity theft. One teen said that a relative had tried to steal her identity online.
- Walsh said that identity theft is big business with kids lured to buy a “free download” with Mom and Dad’s credit card. Kids don’t realize they are being duped.
- Walsh told of unscrupulous census takers who go from house to house gathering information about inhabitants.
Families and Online Safety
- Families need to work together to come up with a set of rules for their children.
- Andrews says tweak rules as necessary.
- Walsh “Kids and teens want rules and boundaries.”
- Parents should go over boundaries with kids. Discuss consequences and punishments.
- Parents should not assume that teens understand the rules. Go over rules to make sure kids understand.
Walsh made a statement that stuck with me. He spoke of the kids who are neglected and abandoned by their parents. He praised the work of the Boys and Girls Clubs in finding these kids and giving them something to live for…education, camaraderie, hope.
Walsh urged the teens at the summit and the teens at home:
If you see something bad happening, say something. You will save someone’s life.
The teens reminded everyone that they are a “strong force.”