As a follow up to an article I wrote last week, and as a parent of teenagers, I decided to dig a little further into Internet and social media dangers that are all too accessible to kids today.
It’s frightening, and it’s right here in Galion.
I spoke to Galion City Schools resource officer Ralph Burwell, of the Galion Police Department, on this issue since he is on the “front lines” when it comes to the Internet and social media issues that occur with Galion students at school or on school property.
Burwell works well with Galion students, and is an asset to our school district just as Officer Sterling was before him. He enjoys the kids and works hard to be be able to communicate with the kids and is well informed at the same time.
His position is every bit as difficult as that of a teacher when it comes to protecting kids.
“I read up, I attend conferences and stay as informed as I can and pass that information on to any administration that I can,” Burwell said. “But the kids that want to be sneaky, and programmers, are always one step ahead of the game.”
“We can stay alert here at the schools, but if parents aren’t actively monitoring and involved at home, it does us no good.”
In my conversation with Officer Burwell, he brought up the issue of how kids are adapting to parents checking their devices by using apps that look like an innocent calculator to hide inappropriate conversations and pictures.
While I pride myself on staying informed and connected, this was new information for mem as a parent, and may be for many others.
My next question was this: How do such apps and ideas even get developed? How is this legal?
The short answer is that it isn’t legal for those who are underage, but any kid can lie about age if they have full on access to an app store without parental supervision. Parents will be none the wiser.
Also, these types of apps are developed in the depths of the Internet known as the “dark web” where rules don’t usually apply. The dark web is reserved for terrorists, extremists, sex traffickers, child predators … anyone who wishes to be anonymous and communicate with the underbelly of society.
Nothing is impossible.
Once I got home, I searched the Internet looking for similar apps to see how accessible they are for me, as an adult.
Needless to say, I didn’t have to look far. And the associated content that came up as a result of that search was not suitable for those underage to be reading.
Parents, if you aren’t involved in the lives of your kids, you need to be. Immediately.
Yes, we all did stupid things when we were kids, and some of that is just a right of passage. They were learning experiences that everyone has to go through to some degree. But kids today are growing up in a different world than we did, and as parents, it is our job to teach, guide and protect them.
Two of my three children have phones and social media accounts, and they are fully aware that at any given time their phones may be taken and checked thoroughly. We pay for the phones and the service to use them, so there is no such thing as “privacy” as far their devices go.
And I’m not sorry about it.
I would rather know too much information, than turn a blind eye and assume my kids are perfect. Because while I have great relationships with my children, I know that they are FAR from perfect.
And trust me. Your kids are not perfect, either.
So please, do some research. Check your children’s phones and look at their text messages, photos and social media accounts. Then dig a little deeper and look or ask them if they have a second account you may be unaware of, or if that calculator app is REALLY a calculator.
Demand to know their passwords and sign-in information so you can check their accounts at any time.
It will take time and effort, and there may be some arguments and disagreements along the way, but remember who is in charge.
If you spend too much time trying to be a friend to your child, they might make “friends” with someone they shouldn’t.
Be a parent to your kids, and be vigilant.