“I would rather not eat for a week than get my phone taken away. It’s really bad,” said Gia, a 13-year-old. “I literally feel like I’m going to die.”

Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Periscope? ooVoo?  ask.fm?Calculator%PrivatePhoto?AfterSchoolApp?

If you don’t recognize each of the mobile applications above, read on. Your child’s well-being may depend on it.

We live in the 21st century. Today’s kids do not know the struggle parents had to go through to make a call with a phone at home connected by a wire to a base attached to a wall. Or having to bring camera film with last week’s party pictures to be developed so that they could show their friends. We live in a world of instant access, immediate gratification, and smartphone supremacy. Now more than ever, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders in a child’s education to promote the safe and appropriate use of technology and all it entails.

Education Is Power.

Most children nowadays have the power of a modern day computer in their hands, wielding great power at their fingertips. And, consequently, they are lightyears ahead of their parents when it comes to using the technology, but completely in the dark when it comes to using it effectively or safely. Teens use social media as a barometer of their sense of belonging to their peer group 24/7, where “likes” act as virtual narcotic for their incessant need to verify their popularity. “Lurking” (choosing to stay in the background and just check in with their feeds constantly) has led to many teens going to their phones over 100 times a day on average simply because they “don’t want to miss out on something that may happen.”

But what can non-tech savvy parents do to try and educate themselves about their child’s online activities and “digital footprint”?

  • Show an Interest: Make an effort to understand what kind of technology/apps your child is using. What kind of device (iPod/Iphone/Andriod) does your child use? Check out what songs/apps your child has downloaded. Try to make an effort to stay on top of any changes in tech/apps your child may use – it’s easier if you’re “all in” right from the beginning.
  • Connect with your child: Find out how your child communicates with the majority of their friends (IM, email, text), and join in on the fun! Learn how to get in contact with your kids quickly via text message – don’t rely on tradition “voice” calls.
  • Start a dialogue: Talk to your child about the apps they use daily and the websites they visit the most frequently on the internet. Ask them if they have a Facebook/Twitter account, and if they do, to show you their profile page.
  • Empower Yourself: Make sure that your family computer has a filtering system installed. While you do not need to explicitly monitor your child’s activities while online, the fact that you can (and the fact that they know this is possible) will help to encourage responsible behavior.
  • Be Proactive About Inappropriate Online Behavior: Whether it be a violent video, online predator, or cyberbully, take the time to explain to your child why such things are wrong, and be open to them about the potential pitfall of not reporting such behavior or just “letting things slide”.
  • Talk to Other Parents: Share your tech experiences and with other parents and especially with the parents of their friends. That way, you’ll ensure that the standards you expect from your child at home will be followed when they are elsewhere.

Here’s a video of some of the safe apps teens can use, some that are questionable, and some that should be avoided outright:

Everything on the Internet Is Permanent. Everything.

Being a responsible Digital Citizen is more important than ever. The digital footprint we leave behind on a daily basis is easily accessible by anyone and can be easily scrutinized by companies, corporation, and other private citizens. That is why it is absolutely crucial that you, as a parent, sit your child down and discuss the potential ramifications of their online actions in a frank and serious manner. Feel free to consult 10 Things to Teach About Global Digital Citizenship, or show this simple infographic to your child:


The Deviant Digital Trifecta

The majority of today’s teens use a combination of one or more of the following social media outlets: Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. If you are unaware of what they are or how they work, keep reading – and make sure to talk to your child about them.

Facebook (13+)

With over 1 billion daily users worldwideFacebook is a fantastic social networking site that allows people to share ideas and empower themselves to a much larger audience than ever before. However, it is also a hotbed of racist, indecent, and homophobic activity. Since many adolescents usually use Facebook as their initiation into the foray of social media, it also tends to be the home for cyber-bullying as well. Profiles are ultra important and are often being used by colleges, universities, and corporate recruiters to assess the individuals they are considering for admission or employment.

Why should parents care how their kids are using Facebook?
  • Anyone can contact your kids on Facebook.
  • Some kids look to their likes and comments to boost their self-esteem.
  • They share a lot of personal information.
  • College admissions officers & employers search for applicants Facebook pages.
  • Some posts can lead your kids to get in trouble.
Facebook’s tips for parents
  • It can be tough to keep up with technology. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids to explain it to you.
  • If you’re not already on Facebook, consider joining. That way you’ll understand what it’s all about!
  • Create a Facebook group for your family so you will have a private space to share photos and keep in touch.
  • Teach your teens the online safety basics so they can keep their Facebook timeline (and other online accounts) private and safe.
  • Talk about technology safety just like you talk about safety while driving and playing sports.
What can parents do to protect their kids on Facebook and to keep their images positive?
  • Friend your kids on Facebook.
  • Don’t comment or like their posts.
  • Use their posts to know what’s going on in their life (and talk to them about it in real life).
  • Use privacy settings to keep your kid’s pages private.
  • Sit down with your kids and say “let’s look through your Facebook page.” Ask them questions as they walk you through their photo.
  • Remind your kids to keep each post “Light, Bright and Polite.”

Instagram (13+)

Instagram is a free photo-sharing application that allows people to take photos, apply filters, and then share photos across various social media platforms. While it may be an excellent venue for sharing one’s talents for photography and accomplishments, teens should be extra careful about what images they decide to post online.

What do kids think of Instagram?
  • Instagram is like a game where they are trying to gain more likes and followers.
  • It’s third most popular app that teens are using (after Facebook & Youtube).
  • Kids take pictures of everything and everywhere.
How are kids using Instagram?
  • Kids work hard to get more followers and collect as many likes on their photos as possible.
  • They post dozens of pictures every day.
  • Most photos are selfies.
  • Their self-worth is based on how many likes and comments they get.
Why should parents care?
  • Kids are addicted to the app.
  • Kids work hard to get many likes, comments and followers so they feel popular.
  • Kids usually don’t think a lot before posting pictures.
  • Their pictures are (usually) visible to all Instagram users.
  • Their self-esteem is tied to their latest Instagram post.
What can parents do to protect their kids on Instagram and to keep their images positive?
  1. Follow your kids on Instagram and see what are they posting.
  2. Don’t comment or like their posts.
  3. Use their posts to know what’s going on in their life (and talk to them about it in real life).
  4. Use a service like Ifttt.com to get an email every time your kid posts on Instagram.
  5. Always report inappropriate content or hacked and hate accounts. Instagram has a Report Something guide.
  6. Remind your kids to keep each post “Light, Bright and Polite.”

Snapchat (13+)

Snapchat is a messaging service where you can send photos (or short videos) to each other called Snaps. What makes this application appealing to teens is that images “disappear” from Snapchat servers seconds after they are opened by others.

Sexting (sending [someone] sexually explicit photographs or messages via cell phone) is of particular concern via Snapchat.

So what now?

The world is a much scarier place for teens in the 21st century – mostly because of the fact that information (both good & bad) is easily accessible to such young eyes. For that reason alone it is paramount that parents talk to their children and help them understand that their “virtual actions can have very severe “real-world” consequences. In addition, children should be made to feel that they can approach any adult whenever they are exposed to any form of cyber-bullying, intimidation, or abuse (written or visual). While schools do play an important part in the educating of our “Digital Citizens”, parents can help to play a special role in solidifying proper digital etiquette. With clear, open lines of communication between all parties involved, almost 90% of incidents can be avoided.

Be safe.

For further information, check out the LBPSB’s website about their Digital Citizenship Program. All videos in this article can be found on Safe, Smart, & social: Teaching Students How To Shine Online.


5 thoughts on “My (so-called) Digital Life

  1. Reblogged this on 54 Staples and commented:

    October’s article in the ‪#‎BeurlingBuzz‬ looks at the love/hate relationship teens have with their devices and social media.
    How can we help adolescents become better ‪#‎DigitalCitizens‬?
    A definite must-read.


  2. How fascinating and intriguing this was – and what a poem. And how sad that one’s &#8e;61pr2cious’ collecting and writing comes to this: strangers curiously fingering through pages and mold… At least you’ve shone a light on her for us….


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