The world of social media is an evolving landscape. It can be tough to keep up, but it’s important for parents to understand it in order to help their children and keep them safe. That’s why Fort Bend ISD is working to not only equip and empower our students, but also give parents the tools they need to help their children use social media in a fun and safe way.
Understanding Social Media and Its Dangers
It is important to understand what social media is. Social media isn’t just websites or apps that allow users to share content, like Facebook or Twitter. It can include any sort of website or app that allows users to connect, but more importantly, communicate with other people.
Some parents may not be aware, but even something like a video game console can be considered social media because it connects your child to others playing the game. According to Lynette Meyer, Director of Digital Learning at FBISD, while letting your child play a game seems harmless, the real danger can begin if the communication goes further than the game.
“If they start to communicate outside that realm and your child is old enough to respond and give out things like their name or their address, then it can become dangerous,” Meyer said. “The danger is also that people are posing as someone other than who they are.”
Being Responsible on Social Media
The first step is talking to your children about social media. It’s important that they understand what it is and how it works. It’s also important that children understand that they should not be sharing or posting personal information on any social media channel.
It’s not just personal information they should avoid posting. It’s also vital that they understand that posting mean things, or sharing inappropriate pictures or videos can have serious consequences too.
Last month, Fort Bend ISD was impacted by a social media trend involving clowns that had been circulating nationwide and in the Houston-area. While some students thought that sharing a tweet or post was harmless, in actuality, the threats were taken seriously and had to be investigated. These types of incidents are not only disruptive to school and student safety, but they can come with some serious consequences.
Fort Bend ISD Chief of Police David Rider also wants to remind students that what they post now can have an impact on their lives for years to come.
“Once a message is sent, it is out there on social media and you own it. More and more employers are looking at social media accounts of potential employees, so those who display a lack of good judgement on social media right now, might not get the job they want in the future,” Rider said. “You are responsible for the content you post.”
Parental Controls and Boundaries
So what can you do to keep your child safe? Setting parental controls and boundaries will give you the upper hand.
Don’t set up a computer or game console in your child’s room. Connect those in a common area of the house and only allow your children to use while being supervised.
With devices such as phones and tablets, make it a rule that they must all be turned into you at a certain time every evening.
When it comes to your children’s actual social media accounts, you should have the username and passwords. If your child has already made an account, have them delete the account. You can then start a new one together so that you can have complete control and supervision of the account.
Wireless Network Settings
Parental controls on home wireless networks are great for filtering what websites your child can access.
“If you make your child turn in their devices, but they still need to do homework, there are settings with home wireless systems that you can set up to give your child access to certain things only through your homes wireless network,” said Meyer.
However, there is a loophole every parent should know about. According to Meyer, children can get around that by using their 3G or LTE on their devices.
Most home wireless system providers such as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and more all offer parental controls right in their packages.
Fort Bend ISD’s Digital Learning Department has a number of resources to help educate students, parents and staff on how to stay safe online. It is the District’s commitment to ensure that students and parents are educated on things such as:
Other internet safety topics
Links are available on FBISD’s Digital Learning Department’s webpage. There’s even talking points on a variety of topics that can assist you on how to talk to your children. Campus counselors are also well-versed on this topic and are available at your child’s campus for any questions you may have.