I was one of about 50 parents and 10 students who attended the Internet Safety Forum Tuesday night, March 12th, at Mt. Si High School. I walked away feeling very encouraged, educated, and wishing many of my friends who have kids with cell phones could have been there.
This forum was fantastic. The panel consisted of two Snoqualmie Police officers, one being SVSD Resource Officer Kim Stonebraker, one counselor, a representative from the King County Sexual Assault Center and Kim Estes from Savvy Parents, a company that supports parents trying to navigate through all this technology stuff.
The Snoqualmie Police Chief provided an update on the recent situation at Mt. Si High School where a student obtained several inappropriate photos of other students and then shared those photos on the internet. Unfortunately, that student may be charged with several felonies.
I was very impressed with the humble manner in which MSHS Principal Belcher is handling this recent event and his proactive stance with students so this doesn’t happen again.
He admitted that MSHS may have dropped the ball when it comes to educating students about internet safety and the dangers/risks associate with social media – and in this case obtaining and sharing inappropriate pictures. Mr Belcher was concerned and interested to hear from parents in the audience – and also from the experts on the safety panel.
Kim Estes highlighted the importance of parental monitoring of our kids’ devices and the home computer, pointing out that computer monitoring is different from computer blocking. She feels that we need to let our kids use technology, as its here to stay, but kids need to know we are keeping an eye on them.
Several monitoring software programs can be downloaded that provide a weekly report time kids spent on different websites, apps or texting. Kim said it provides opportunities for good conversation before kids get into real trouble on the Internet. Her favorite is Qust0dio.
How many apps are on your child’s phone? Kim said many kids are downloading questionable apps and websites without parental knowledge because they have access to the app stores via their phone and insufficient computer monitoring. Case in point: Mr. Belcher said he asked “good” student what apps were on his phone. The list was long and included social apps like Vine, Tumblr, Tinder, kik, Snapchat and others that surprised him or that he knew little about.
But to the defense of the many parents like myself trying to do their best to monitor their kid’s phone and talk about what is appropriate, some kids just simply don’t obey their parents. Or some kids need to hear the same message from other adults, those they view as understanding the teenage world better than their parents, to understand how serious the problem is with the abuse of cell phones.
I appreciated MSHS administrators honesty and their commitment to being more proactive in the future regarding internet safety and social media risks. They plan to roll out a whole new approach to teaching and sharing this conversation with the students. I’m very encouraged.
Administrators are open to hearing our opinions and concerns. They need guidance and direction from parents and students as they swiftly work to put a proactive plan together at the high school level. Several parents in the audience reminded them of the huge need for this at the middle school level, too.
I would encourage you to watch for another forum like this in the coming months, and please make every effort to attend. Students are welcome and it’s helpful to hear their opinions, too.
If you have some constructive suggestions for this group of leaders, or if you know of any other schools with programs like this already in place that educate students about bullying, internet safety and suicide prevention, please share a link to that information with Mr. Belcher. He’s happy to explore other school’s programs.