Knowledge of social media paramount for parents

Technology is moving so fast parents are almost unable to keep up with current trends.

Technology is moving so fast parents are almost unable to keep up with current trends.

Their children are accessing websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat and most guardians don’t even know how to navigate these sites. But as technology progresses parents may need to involve themselves in their kids’ lives to have a better understanding of how things work.

Explicit messages sent among students at an elementary school in Strathmore recently has sparked the question of how parents should approach their children and digital citizenship.

Greg Esteves, technology integration director for Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS), says parents need to understand policies of use in social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Facebook for example, states kids under 13 years old should not use their site.

“One of the things that we work with our parents is try to have them understand that these digital spaces are places where kids are gathering…as a part of their regular social “network.’” Esteves explained.

He likened this involvement to when parents send their children to a friend’s house to play. Adults generally ask questions on who the friends are and where they live. When it comes to social networks, Esteves recommends using those same principles of involvement and he does that with his own children.

“I need to work with them to understand how to navigate these spaces,” he added.

Today’s parents are facing different challenges than their own parents 20 or 30 years ago and Esteves says there are tools to help with these issues. Media Smarts at www.mediasmarts.ca provides education for parents and their kids.

The challenge WCPS faces is ensuring important information is passed on to parents who are only starting to adopt use of these websites.

Technology coaches at the different schools in the district are asking Esteves why digital citizenship is not the same thing as good citizenship. “We’re still at that time in history I think, that a distinction needs to be made.”

Changes in how people access the Internet has changed rapidly; the first IPhone was announced in June 2007 and the first IPad was released April 2010 — a mere four years ago.

With such new tools available to youths and children, Esteves suggests parents treat these devices and websites similar to getting a drivers licence. There is a process and training involved.

Social media powerful tools with positive outcomes

“We have these transformational tools that allow you to drive the information super highway and there’s no similar process,” explained Esteves.

He believes social media sites can and are used in positive ways. Esteves recalls nations going through political change and using Twitter to tell their stories.

“If you look at that active citizenship part too…Any kind of changes that are important to societies that are happening now, there’s often a social media connected component,” he said.

Parents who want to learn more about social media can check out the Digitial Citizenship link on the Parents page of the WCPS website www.wolfcreek.ab.ca, or speak with a technology coach at one of their schools.

“I think the most important thing for parents is to just have that conviction that ‘This is an important conversation I need to have.’ It’s on the same level I would argue as alcohol and drugs, the various other types of worries and concerns,” said Esteves.

He suggests parents learn more about these sites rather than getting rid of devices that access social media.

“Being a parent, I know one of my responsibilities is to prepare kids for the world in which they are going to live once they live the safety of my house,” Esteves advised.