Have you talked to your kids about staying safe online?

Local social media expert offers tips on teaching children to become good digital citizens

Darren and Beth Laur, West Shore residents and social media experts with Personal Protection Services. (Contributed photo)

Within a few weeks, thousands of kids will be flooding back to schools throughout the district, many with bright, shiny, new smart phones in hand.

With Facebook profiles, Instagram accounts and Snapchat, some parents may find it difficult to keep up with or may not even know about their child’s growing social media presence.

But, as Uncle Bill says in Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and having a cell phone is no different.

“Cell phones give our kids all kinds of access to everything and anything in the digital world. It’s the key to everything from hate crimes to bullying to gambling to pornography,” said Darren Laur, a social media expert with the West Shore-based Personal Protection System Inc.

He has made presentations regarding online safety to more than 34,000 middle and high school aged students across Canada and the U.S.

“At the beginning, we need to be able to take our kids by the hand and walk them through the digital world … We need to start parenting on this issue,” he said.

RELATED: West Shore Family Back to School edition

According to Laur, it’s not only the responsibility of schools, but also parents to teach children how to become good digital citizens and responsible online to prevent issues such as cyberbullying.

Here are a few tips to teach your child how to become digitally literate:

1. Before handing a child a new phone parents should ask themselves, do their kids have the social and emotional maturity and impulse control, and do they know how to honour boundaries to allow them to own and operate a phone without parental supervision?

If the answer is no, chances are, your child is not ready for their first cell phone.

“Like it or not, that phone is the digital key to the digital highway. It’s like tossing your kids the keys to a new car without any driver training. Would any of us do that? Not one of us would,” Laur said.

“If you combine that with no social and emotional maturity, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

2. The younger the child, the simpler the phone should be. While many kids have them, smartphones may not always be for grade school kids.

Consider getting a phone that has the ability to call, text or take pictures, such as the Kyocera DuraXE flip phone, said Laur.

As the child matures and shows parents they can be responsible online, then think about upgrading.

3. Create a family collective agreement, which outlines expectations of how the child will use the phone both inside and outside the home.

Then sit down with your child to ensure they fully understand expectations and consequences that could arise should they use the phone inappropriately.

Laur also suggests implementing incremental consequences. “Too many parents try to deal with these issues as if it’s a hammer and take the phone away,” Laur said. “When a child is in trouble, they’re less likely to go to their parents, because the parent is going to take away that thing that means so much to them.”

4. Ask for the school’s code of conduct regarding technology and make sure to explain it to your child before school starts and go over it with them, so they understand what is expected in a school setting. Most schools will have their code of conduct on their website.

5. Ensure your child knows how to use the device – don’t assume they already know how to use it. Laur said to read the instructions and learn how to use the phone together. It should be a learning experience for both you and your child.

6. Turn on privacy settings and turn off specific location settings.

7. Don’t call or text your child while they’re in class. Cell phones can often be a disruption and distraction in class to your child, teacher and students. If there is an emergency consider calling the school.

8. Be a good tech role model. Research shows children often mimic parents’ behaviour. That means, if you’re texting and having a conversation with your child or texting and driving, your kids are more likely to pick up similar habits.

“It’s important that we be that good role model and more importantly, that we participate in and communicate with our kids in the digital world, so that we enjoy the ride together with our kids,” Laur said.

Find all of the stories that were in the fall West Shore Family publication online here.

kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Husband of slain RCMP officer ‘disgusted and disheartened’ by parole board

Killer of Const. Sarah Beckett allowed limited day parole for alcohol treatment

Driver convicted in death of Const. Sarah Beckett granted partial parole

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend an alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after fatal crash in Langford

House fire on Esquimalt First Nation sends one to hospital

The blaze began at a home in a residential neighbourhood; one person has been treated for smoke inhalation

City of Victoria earmarks $90,000 for mayoral assistant

The new Head of Strategy and Operations would help with municipal duties

Experts discuss sustainability and tourism in Victoria

IMPACT Sustainability Travel and Tourism Conference runs Jan. 21-23

WATCH: Celebration of Life hosted for 29 Victoria trees set to be removed

Community Trees Matter Network hosting “goodbye and thank you” for trees on Fort Street

Trial starts for man accused of killing Winnipeg bus driver

The Winnipeg bus driver was stabbed multiple times back in 2017

Giuliani clarifies comments about Trump Tower Moscow project

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani clarifies comments he made

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Speaker brings report on allegations to B.C. legislature committee

Report describes Darryl Plecas’ suspicions about senior staff

Suspect allegedly armed with handgun robs Island gas station

Incident occurred Sunday night in Nanaimo

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

MARS seeing influx of sick, injured eagles from north part of Vancouver Island

Factors for increase in eagle cases can be anything from lead poisoning to vehicle strikes

Doug Ford says the Liberals’ carbon tax will plunge Canada into recession

The Ontario premier said there are already warning signs of difficult economic times ahead

Most Read