On Monday, February 23, the Rumson School District presented a parent “coffee chat” on the subject of Internet Safety and Cyber Bullying. The event was organized by Forrestdale School Guidance Counselor and Anti-Bullying Specialist Jenn Crow — and hosted by local parent and internet safety expert Tyna Kilbourne, who has a wealth of industry experience (having once spearheaded AOL’s Criminal Compliance Unit).
Kilbourne, who is a member of the Forrestdale School Safety Team, examined the “ugly side” of the internet, where predators abound, and addressed issues such as “perceived anonymity” that affect today’s school-age children.
“Statistics show that 92% of children in the U.S. have had some exposure to the internet or have some form of online presence by the time they are two years old,” Kilbourne told a surprised group of parent attendees. “And a question that parents should always be asking when their children are using internet technology is ‘what exactly are they doing?’”
Kilbourne spoke to the common misconception among young people today that information they post “goes away”.
“Once photos and information are out there on the internet, you can’t really get them back,” she said. “In reality, everything that appears on the internet is indeed stored and can be retrieved.”
She suggested keeping laptops and similar devices in an open room, accessible by all family members, to lessen the dangers of cyberbullying and other negative experiences associated with the internet.
“Most kids don’t really know the people they are ‘following’ or otherwise interacting with,” said Kilbourne. “And cell phones and webcams are a vehicle for allowing strangers into your home without your permission.”
Among the topics addressed during the hour-long coffee chat were risks, content, contact, and conduct regarding the internet — and among the helpful tips provided by Kilbourne were:
- It’s never too early to start the dialogue about internet usage and to set expectations
- Talk, talk, and more talk – speak to your kids about their online activity
- You don’t need to be an expert – But you do need to know about the different services and internet-enabled devices your children are using
- Set guidelines for internet usage – where, when, how long, and for what types of information
- Find the right tool for the job – Use the appropriate parental controls for monitoring software to protect your family
- Search for your child online – Search your child’s name and email address to see what has been posted
Kilbourne’s handouts for parents included “Your Guide To Social Networking” from Netsmartz Workshop, “Internet Safety” A Guide for Parents and Educators” from the National Association of School Psychologists, and “Teen Pledge for Being Smart Online” from SafeKids.com.
Tyna Kilbourne hosts in-home workshops for parents, and can be contacted at Justyna@aol.com.
Throughout this school year, the Rumson School District has been presenting parent “coffee chats” to increase understanding of a variety of childhood and teenage development issues impacting both learning and HIB (Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying). Coming up on March 23 is the “Fishbowl Event”, which will examine how sixth through eighth grade students and their parents really feel about a variety of important issues.