Students and their parents received a presentation on social media safety and guidelines for smartphone and device use at Rio Norte Junior High School on Tuesday.
The assemblies were hosted by Digital4Good — a Bakersfield-based organization that lectures on the importance of cyber-security, being aware about troubling trends on social media and teaching how parents and kids can communicate to set boundaries and limitations on device use.
Thomas Flores, assistant principal at Rio Norte, said the student assemblies during the day focused on how they could respond in a positive way when they see negativity online — particularly in instances of cyberbullying.
“We talked about how a lot of negative things get a lot of attention, but how we should change that and shift that so that positive things get a lot of attention,” said Flores. “So that’s what we focused on today in our assembly.”
The parent assembly had a stronger focus on strategies on how to control social media and phone usage, making them aware of parental controls on iPhones and informing them about which apps are popular and how students use them.
Strategies for parents mainly including dialogue and communication with their children. A pamphlet handed out ahead of the parent presentation offered the following advice: follow/friend your child on all their social media accounts, go over what information should not be shared online, know all the passwords on their devices and accounts, set limits for device use, watch child for potential signs of abuse or addiction, check the privacy, security and GPS settings on their devices and accounts, and know the trends.
“There’s no speedway to teach your kid how to read, there’s no speedway to teach your kid on how to use these devices,” said Kim Karr, co-founder of Digital4Good, who gave the presentation on Tuesday. “You have to sit side by side with them. Just like if you teach them how to drive … To be able to drive a car, you have to get your permit, you have to take a test and you have to do these different things. Make your kid, if you want something from you, and you don’t want them to have it yet, make them take a test.”
Carr said making sure parents and students were on the same page was crucial for reducing anxiety, depression, stress, cyberbullying and reducing the risk of more serious things that could happen on social media such as human trafficking and exploitation.
A list of starter questions was presented to parents on how to begin a conversation and featured questions such as, “What social media networks do you and your friends use?” and “What kind of Snapchats do you post, can I see your Snapchat story?”
The pamphlet then guided the conversation to transition into privacy and safety, friends and social communication issues and digital wellness. The latter challenged parents to ask questions such as, “Have you ever taken a post down?” and “Have you ever seen an embarrassing picture that someone else posted of another person of which they were not aware?”
During a segment of the presentation in which she emphasized the importance of parents knowing their children’s social media passwords, Karr said one of the reasons it was good idea was to save them from embarrassment if they do post something they shouldn’t have.
Karr then showed examples from across the country of students posting racist acts such as forming a swastika out of red party cups, wearing single-lettered shirts that were initially used to spell out a graduation congratulations but were rearranged later to spell out a racial slur, and a photo of a student wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe that was done on a dare — all of which was posted on social media.
“Here’s the interesting thing when I worked at this school, because it was an investigation. The parents didn’t have the passwords, if they were able to, it would have gotten taken down before the news got ahold of it,” said Karr. “The school had a screenshot but the news got it because it was still public, the kid’s account was public … The parent didn’t have the passcode. Right, if the parent had it, it would have gotten taken down … because the parents didn’t have the password, they couldn’t help them take it down.”
When asked to clarify her statements following the presentation, she said matters such as the photos she presented should be considered a “private matter” and that parents should be able to do anything they can to “protect their families in those situations.”
“Because it’s going public, right, and it’s a minor. And so yeah, they got, of course, got in trouble at the school site. But this way, it’s not. I mean, this is the news media, and it made national news. So if they can get it where shutting it down when your kids get in trouble and it’s a pretty big deal,” said Karr. “Getting your accounts on private, because if it’s on private, the news media (can’t) come in. But if it’s on public, as you know, they (can) go in there and pull up all those pictures to post up on their news stories, so that’s how they’re getting that.
“And so it’s like, I mean, you’re putting yourself out there … most kids do have their accounts on public. So it’s like, ‘Hey, they’re minors still,’ and we need to make sure you go in there and quickly shut as much down so that you can (and) hopefully help when those bad situations arise.”