Cyber-safety rules for parents

Last updated 13:36 01/02/2014
SCHOOL TECH: More schools are asking parents to buy their children a tablet for school.
SCHOOL TECH: More schools are asking parents to buy their children a tablet for school.

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Parents need to understand the way their children are using digital devices and impose some discipline, experts advise. KATIE KENNY and BLAYNE SLABBERT report.

With more schools adding tablets and laptops to students' stationery lists, parents need to switch on to cyber safety and device restrictions, experts say.

Most schools offer seminars and resources around parenting cyberkids, and National Library learning futures development specialist Andrew Cowie says there is plenty of information and guidance online.

Parents should engage and show an interest in what their children get up to with their devices, but also enforce rules and restrictions around use.

"Computer and internet use is not an all-you-can-eat buffet table . . . technology use is not a right," he says.

"Encourage sharing into their world - to maintain a good rapport and understanding of what spaces are most inhabited by young people and why. Also, it helps to keep up with the lingo."

In Auckland, Diocesan School for Girls principal Heather McRae says cyber education is now taught at a much younger age. Diocesan junior school students were given iPads to use in class, while high school students were expected to bring their own devices.

The school educated teachers, parents, and students about cyber safety and effective device use. "We talk to the girls very much about how the rules around respect and language online and your behaviours online have got to be the same as when you're offline.

"Girls sometimes think that they can behave differently online, and that it's a secret world and no one will find out about it.

"Once you raise awareness [of cyber bullying], the culture is that it's not acceptable. We certainly talk about the bystander effect. We say, if you see it happening, you have a responsibility, otherwise you're a participant."

Christchurch private boys' high school Christ's College last year gave students the choice of bringing their own devices, but this year boys are to bring laptops or tablets to every class, senior academic master Robin Sutton says.

"We don't specify any particular device but we do recommend [Macs] because of the long battery life."

Some parents were concerned about the amount of time their children would be sitting in front of a screen, but Sutton says the college promotes a "blended learning environment", where devices would be used a fair amount, but not always considered "the right tools for the job".

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Another boys' high school, John McGlashan College in Dunedin, has introduced iPads to the list of supplies. The school allows boys to bring their own iPad, or hire one for $150 a year.

One mother thought the school had been thorough in briefing parents and boys about responsible use of devices.

"Considering it's already an integrated school, you're paying fees, so most people who are paying the fees can afford $150. I appreciate all the devices being the same, rather than bring your own.

"My son [aged 11] isn't on social media sites yet . . . so I'm not very worried about it from a social perspective.

"I don't really have firm views on it, but it's made my son really happy. This is the first time he's ever been excited about school and homework. So, for me, that's a huge win."

TEN TIPS FOR PARENTS WITH CYBERKIDS

Ban bedrooms: Prevent your children from going to their rooms with a device. Make them use them in the lounge or kitchen and keep the charger in a central area such as the kitchen. You can also use this charging time to check texts, social media posts and emails.

Set time limits: For smaller kids, this may be for up to 30 minutes a day or only on the weekends. Also decide each night to turn off devices and a time when they are allowed on again.

Create passwords: Make sure you know the passwords for all of their devices and various social media accounts. Also, follow your children's accounts so you can see what they are posting but maybe promise not to post anything on their accounts so you don't embarrass them.

Regular checks: Let them know that you'll occasionally check their texts, emails, posts, photos and settings. Explain that it's not spying, you're just teaching them to be responsible.

Get it in writing: Consider drawing up a contract between yourself and your child outlining the dos and don'ts. Include consequences for rule violations.

Teach consequences: Talk to your children regularly about the dangers of constantly accessing the internet and posting on their social pages. Tell them never to post anything they wouldn't want their parents or teachers to see.

Teach yourself: The best way to know what your kids are capable of is to know how to use these devices and websites yourself.

Cyberbullying: Keep a very close eye on any evidence of cyberbullying. If you suspect something, talk to your child first. Also, take screenshots as evidence for police and school.

Limit apps: If you have an iTunes or Google Play account, keep the password private so you limit what they buy. Get them to ask permission for each app download.

Have manners: Make sure they understand the consequences if they are unpleasant to anyone online.

- The Press

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