I had one parent come.
Fortunately, this parent and I have an existing relationship--I have been teaching her children and grandchildren for 5 years now--so it was not awkward. Despite the fact that it was just the two of us, I learned so much about how to have a discussion with parents about Internet safety, about a parent's perspective, about the kind of information parents want.
I gave her 2 parent/child contracts: one for grades K-5 and one for grades 6-8. I found these contracts at CommonSenseMedia.org. We reviewed their content and discussed how the topics applied to the situation in her house.
Here are some tidbits of the conversation:
- She described monitoring what her children were doing on the computer, which I commended her on.
- She described her children constantly asking for her email address to sign up for game sites. I gave her a few sites where she could set them up with a safe and secure email account that she could monitor easily.
- We discussed the importance of a "healthy balance" of time online and offline.
- When it comes down to it, web surfing habits, password-protected accounts and use of the computer all fall into the parental domain. After all, parents own the equipment, not the children. Even if it was a gift, if a child is under 18 they should expect parents to have certain rules in their house.
I was struck at how easy the conversation was, how much she thanked me and truly appreciated the information I gave her.
While the turnout was not what I wanted, it still brightened my day to see the possibilities for discussion and the interest that does exist. From our conversation I could tell that she was not the only parent looking for information. Hopefully, I will have more attendees next month.
If you have not yet had such a night for your parents, I highly suggest you do. With parents as our partners, we can ensure that our students are protected from things like cyberbullying or identity theft and that parents are well-informed enough to have meaningful conversations with their children about what they do online.
For more information, check out these resources:
CommonSenseMedia.org: A site for parents, educators, and kids that serves as a place for learning about responsible use of all kinds of media as well as how to talk to your kids about what they see and hear on TV, the radio, etc..... There are also free resources for teachers and schools to hold their own parent workshops.
NetSmartzKids.org: a site for parents, educators and kids for all things related to Internet Safety. The kids site has wonderful videos, games and songs to teach children how to be smart when using the Internet.
CyberSmart: A curriculum for teachers and a great resource for homeschoolers.
iSafe: A wonderful resource for parents and educators, this site and this organization offer iSafe certification for educators who want to become experts in teaching Internet safety and responsibility.
Kidoz: a free internet browser for non-readers or new readers that automatically filters sites and allows access only those sites approved by Kidoz or you, the parent/teacher. I reviewed it here.
Email services for children and families
Zoobuh: Create managed email accounts for your children. $30/year per child.
KidMail.net: Create managed email accounts with the option of a 'Younger Child' account or an 'Older Child' account. Requires a registration fee after 30 days.
KidsEmail.org: Create managed email accounts for a nominal fee after 30 day trial period.
KidSurf: Create a free email account for your child. Friends can only send and receive messages from people on their friend list.
Zilladog: Free, managed email accounts for children. This service is endorsed by iSafe and CommonSenseMedia (see above).
photo courtesy of House of Sims on Flickr