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Sunday Mornings with Rania: Monitoring Kids' Technology Use at School

Rania Mankarious
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Sunday Mornings with RaniaIn today’s digital world, savvy parents do everything they can to protect their children online: we follow their social media or even forbid them from joining social media altogether; we check privacy settings; monitor internet usage through wireless routers or downloadable software; we keep the family computer in a central location and have age-appropriate and reoccurring conversations about being good digital citizens, online reputation and the dangers of the Internet.

We try to take control of the gadgets we own and how they impact our children . . .  but what if they have access to the online world through devices not given to them by us? Devices we have no control of?  

This week’s tragic story – Cy-Fair officer in training arrested after allegedly luring 12-year-old girl to Cypress hotel room – made us wonder. She’s only 12 years old but this Houston girl left her home willingly, at midnight, to meet a man she connected with via the popular social media app “MeetMe.” Here’s the issue: she was accessing the app through the iPad given to her by her school. Of course, upon meeting Jorge Bastida, she was allegedly sexually assaulted. Thankfully, authorities located her in a motel shortly after.

The reality that this young girl met this online predator through a school-provided iPad is terrifying. This got us thinking about the devices many schools provide their students, what security measures school administration takes to protect students, and what that means for parents who have no access or control over their child’s online behavior at school.

Do you know?

On the one hand, we are thankful for schools who invest in technology and offer it to students. Studies show there are a lot of positives in utilizing technology in the classroom, yielding a tremendous impact on teaching, learning and student development. A recent survey conducted by THEJournal revealed that 75 percent of participating teachers believed that technology had a positive impact on education. An overwhelming 81 percent of teachers favored the idea of schools providing devices to all students with nearly 50 percent saying that students at their schools had 1-to-1 devices. And these devices are needed. According to The Edvocate, nearly 60 percent of administrators say they have implemented some form of mobile technology in classrooms as 96 percent “believe technology will have a positive role to play in education in the future.”

But just because the technology is meant for education does not mean kids won’t exploit it, especially in homes where parents are stricter or on top of social media risks. Paired with some alarming statistics and the need for discussion becomes clear:

  • Teens are willing to meet with strangers: 16 percent of teens considered meeting someone they've only talked to online and 8 percent have actually met someone they only knew online.
  • 75 percent of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services.
  • One in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet says they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web (only 25 percent of those told a parent).

What’s a Parent to do?

Start asking questions and stay informed.

  • Does your school give your child access to online world?
  • Do they allow your child to bring their own electronic device?
  • Do they provide devices for students?
  • Do you know your school’s policy and the measurements they take to safeguard school given electronic devices?
  • Do they block all platforms or just a few?
  • Are there ways for students to get around this or cheat the system?
  • I’m sure there are location services with the gadgets. Given that your kids keep these at school and at home, can a predator track the gadget and your child?

Don’t be afraid to ask the school pointed questions. Talk to your children too. In this new world of immediate gratification and hyper-sexualization, these are important concerns that every parent must consider. Their safety depends on it.

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