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Front Line Staff / Staff Leadership and Management

Attention: Get in the Cyberworld Now!!!

cyberworld, computer keys

If we want to know what is going on in the cyberworld with our kids, we need to get into the cyberworld.

A new frontier has quickly developed and for many adults it is a frontier that is very foreign to us. This new frontier is the Cyberworld. This world offers our kids some pretty amazing things that can help foster their growth as an individual and provide information that accelerates their educational learning opportunities. Developed as an educator’s tool for sharing, the internet and cyberworld have quickly taken on a dark side. To understand the risk factors associated with this dark side, parents must get into the cyberworld immediately.

For some parents, teachers, and youth advocates, navigating in the cyberworld is an everyday occurrence and something that comes naturally. For a much larger population the cyberworld can be intimidating and an environment parents hesitate to frequent. Bottom line though, is that our kids are there, so we must be there too.

The following will help us get into the cyberworld with our kids.

By no means are these tips universal and work for every situation. We need to understand that the dark side of the internet and the actions in the cyberworld is a human behavior, and working with a human behavior, nothing is universal. Each family is different and each family needs to take the time to discover what works for your situation and your family.

Centralize the computer –

Getting in the cyberworld does not necessarily mean you have to be online navigating the internet all day everyday. We can get into the space of the cyberworld by simply being around the area our kids are working when online. Put the online accessibility of the computer in a room that is frequented by parents constantly. Make the computer screen be viewable to you, so that you can easily see where your kids are navigating too. Having the computer centrally located and close to adult supervision also enables our kids to quickly communicate with us anytime they feel uncomfortable with an online experience. If you have accessibility to more than one computer, establish an offline computer. This computer can be in a quiet room and will be utilized for anything not needing online capabilities. When working on a project or a report, require them to use the offline computer. This will limit distractions (instant messaging from friends) and put them in a room that they can truly concentrate in.

Consistent Communication –

Probably the most important strategy we can resource too as parents is simply establishing consistent communication with our kids who are going online. Do not wait for a special moment to happen and react with communication. Establish proactive communication with your kids that focuses on their online etiquette and behavior. This channel of consistent communication will not only develop trust, but will also serve as a lifeline for our kids when they experience a threatening situation in the cyberworld. Our kids needs to feel comfortable talking with us and trusting that when they share experiences they encounter in the cyberworld, they will be supported. To establish the communication designate a day of the week and time that you can sit down at the computer and navigate through sites your kids visit. Talk with them about any risk that they might experience when online. It is important that boundaries are established and that the boundaries are clearly identified and understood. Use this weekly meeting to reinforce the boundaries and expectations of your child when they are online.

Online Experience and Knowledge –

Parents must become tech savvy and experienced with online applications. Like we said earlier, if you want to know what is going on in the cyberworld, you must get into the cyberworld. It is critical that parents spend time navigating through the internet on their own and learning the capabilities of the computer. The best teacher I can recommend to educate on the cyberworld is simply experience. Parents must dedicate time each week to developing their online skills and knowledge. Sign up for classes which keep up with the currents trends and changing technology. Understand how the computer works and what resources there are to secure the safety of our children while online. The more knowledge a parent can develop about the internet and risk factors associated with it, the better equipped parents will be to secure the safety of children while online.

Blogging, Chatrooms and Social Networking Sites –

Along the same lines as Online Experience and Knowledge discussed in #3, parents need to develop an understanding of how Blogging, Chatrooms, and Social Networking sites operate. Create a user identity and spend time in chatrooms which your kids might frequent. What are the discussions like? Are they appropriate? It must be clear, you are not “snooping” on what your kids do online, you are supervising and taking responsibility to discover if where they are going online is safe. To discover the social networking sites it is recommended that parents set up a profile on MySpace and learn what this site is about. When MySpace and other social networking sites are used with responsibility, they are a tremendous tool for kids to connect with one another and stay in contact. Unfortunately it is when these social networking sites are abused do they turn into a risk factor for our kids. Spend some time in the social networking sites and discover the safety features each one has to offer.

Be There: Establish an Emergency Communication System –

Assure rapid communication with your child while they are online. Parents can not spend every minute of the day next to their child while online. Although you physically can not be there, you can via the cyberworld. Set up a system with your kids to immediately communicate any threatening situations they may encounter while online while you are not there through technology. Utilize emailing, instant messaging, and SMS as a rapid communication system to alert you when you are not home. This would entail owning a PDA device which receives emails and/or text messaging. It is critical we establish these lifelines for our children so that they can communicate to us the threats they receive while online. The proactive communication, established in step one, will assure kids feel comfortable alerting their parents when they are scared and in need support. We need to be there for kids when they need help. We can not rely on technology to alert us, there is a responsibility that falls on the shoulders of kids and their parents to have a system of communication in place, so that parents can be there immediately when a threat occurs.

The growing trend of cyberbullying has exceeded to impact over 43% of the kids online in the United States.

Simply put, it is not if it will happen to your child, but when will this cruel behavior happen. Like any emergency, and the act of cyberbullying needs to be seen as needing an emergency response, the faster we can get to the child and communicate the better off we will be. As parents we no longer can afford to sit on the outside and watch. We need to know what is going on in the cyberworld, therefore we must utilize strategies that puts us in the cyberworld.

Breakfast for the day:
Cereal and Coffee with my beautiful son and daughter!

Author:  John Vandenburgh

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