Back to School...The Modern Age

EAT | DRINK
2017
September/October

While many parents are educated on how to stand up to a school bully; living in a virtually connected cyber world puts school bullies right in the child’s bedroom. Children no longer get the luxury of escaping the bullies when they come home from school. So how can parents keep their children safe this school year and prevent or intervene if they are being bullied – or bullying others?

A new book by Scott Steinberg, a veteran tech journalist, and analyst, hopes to answer that question. At the end of August, Steinberg released a book that is aimed at helping parents navigate through the world of social media so that they can protect their children. The book is titled The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks. The goal of the book is to keep kids safe online, protect their privacy and make technology safe for families.

Steinberg has plenty of experience with technology as a professional and as a parent. Steinberg was recently named “Master of Innovation” by Chase Bank and Fortune magazine. He has been called one of the top technology and game industry authorities by dozens of outlets from the Associated Press to USA Today and NPR, and he’s also a frequent on-air analyst for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and CNN.

Key concerns addressed in the book include when to allow kids to be on social media, how to address threats like cyber bullying, identity theft, and online addiction, as well as how to protect kids and keep them safe on social networks, and what information is safe to share online. The book also details information about major social networks and gives inside details on their features.

The book is not meant to scare parents away from their children using social media. It’s fine for kids to connect to social networks, so long as proper rules of behavior, conduct, and digital citizenship are observed. Steinberg’s book provides tips to parents on how to make social media safer for kids including:

Limit Access: You can control who sees your kids’ status updates, photos, location and other information shared online. Many social networks allow you to designate the post’s visibility and limit access to specific individuals vs. the public at large.

Manage Connections: You can also control settings that govern whether kids can be searched for and found, and who can send them messages or friend requests – make a point of doing so.

Prohibit Posting: Several networks let you determine whether or not others can post on your profile, tag you in photos, or mention you in posts – take advantage of
these features. 

Inhibit Apps: Applications can often access your profile and personal information by default. Be certain to configure privacy settings for each app, which are operated by third-party creators, and may share your status updates, photos, location and more.

Block Baddies: In extreme cases, you can block and blacklist others from being able to view your children’s profiles or
online activities.

Cyber bullying is not to be taken lightly. Many times, the results of cyber bullying can be detrimental to a child’s self-esteem, or in extreme cases, self-harm, depression or suicide can follow. 

“We have to be aware that what once might have been confined to the school yard suddenly can be exposed to the entire world,” Steinberg said. “Social media tends to be a magnifier, so it is important to understand what they’re going through online, to be cognitive of their feelings, and be empathetic and aware of the fact that they are going to be dealing with increasing concerns going foreword. I think it’s important to be more and more aware of what’s happening in terms of cyber bullying.”

Over the summer the Texas Senate voted unanimously and passed a bill that criminalizes cyber bullying and extends the reach of schools and parents to prevent the harassment. 

Senate Bill 172 makes cyber bullying a misdemeanor and gives school districts the ability to intervene in cyber bullying cases. It also permits courts to issue subpoenas to reveal anonymous cyber bullies and allows victims to sue in civil court if the parents of the bully had the opportunity to intervene but did not. 

This bill comes after a number of child suicides have increased due to the prevalence of cyber bullying. According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. The bill, also known as David’s Law, attained the vote majority from the Texas House of Representatives as well. David’s Law was named after a boy named David Molak, who took his own life after relentless cyber bullying. School officials in San Antonio, where David attended high school, did not intervene in the cyber bullying issue because they said the bullying happened online, not in school. Under the new law, schools are required to act if they are suspicious of any cyber bullying activity.

Steinberg hopes that his book will help prevent cyber bullying before it starts and will give parents a peace of mind knowing that they are doing everything in their power to protect
their children. 

“I have spoken with dozens upon dozens of families that have had to deal with cyber bullying, and we know that thousands of families across America have to deal with it and are going through it each day,” Steinberg said. “The good news is that there are more resources to help those families now as we become more aware of the issue and how to deal with it.”

Steinberg did an incredulous amount of research before writing this book in hopes to be a true, leading authority on helping to protect children and arms parents with knowledge of
social networks.

Steinberg said he spoke with a number of leading experts in a variety of fields. He has spent countless hours on social networks, combed through dozens of services and apps to see what they allow kids to do and what kind of safety features are available. Steinberg also spent a lot of time talking with families around the country and the world to get insight on what works for them.

Ultimately, Steinberg said his main goal is that the book helps parents feel as though they are ready to jump into the world of social media. If parents have pre-teens or teens who have been using social media for some time, Steinberg wants to arm parents with information so that they can start figuring out ways to protect their children from online threats.

“We want to dismiss some of the fears surrounding social networks,” Steinberg said. “We want to flag some obvious concerns that would be worth looking into, we want to dispel some common myths, and we want to create some positive and constructive channels to which parents and kids could be engaging in dialogue about social networks and thinking about what kind of questions they need to be asking. We want to get parents thinking about what kind of household rules and guidelines to put in place and show them the basics as parents get ready to dive into the world of social networks.”

The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks is available in both print and e-book versions via major retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Parents have a lot on their plates these days, and sometimes it seems that the worry of cyber bullying and social media is just another thing weighing them down. While school is just now getting back into full swing, it is important for parents to educate themselves about social media and how to keep their teens safe. Once armed with information, the weight of parenting in the modern age feels just a little bit lighter.  

 

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