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Hotchalk Global

news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Your Father’s Famous Four Questions (Part 3)

In a recent blog post, I shared four questions that parents typically ask their children before letting them out the door.  These questions came to me from Lori Getz, who writes about them in detail in the Parent Resource Center of her website.  The questions are as follows:

  1. What are wearing?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. Who are you going with?
  4. What time will you be home?

Question 3: Who are you going with?

Girl with laptopWhen I consider how little some parents know about their children’s online associates, it makes me shudder.  Many adults grew up in neighborhoods or towns that had “a creepy guy” or that one person our parents warned us to avoid.  Sometimes these admonitions were without merit, but usually there was a reason behind the extra caution.  Today, we panic over sex offenders living in the same zip code, but any number of freaks could be lurking right there in a child’s buddy list or Facebook friends.  If you do not personally KNOW someone – in real life – then there is generally no reason for that person to have an online relationship with your child.  Lori Getz shares a story of a person who posed as a newly-arriving student in a particular high school.  He had gained the trust of one other student at the school, who added him to his Facebook friends, and before long he had a whole host of new “friends” at the school.  I also worry for high school seniors who “friend” everyone they can who is also planning to attend their university, based on the idea that they can start college with plenty of new friends.  I think this is not only risky, but it also puts a lot of pressure on people to be all things to all people instead of just meeting new people the “usual” way and having normal relationships built on real-world common interests.

I have a feeling, though, that many young people don’t necessarily add people they don’t know to their friend lists and social networks.  Adding everyone you DO know may not be the wisest decision either.  I do have to admit that I am happy, for the most part, when I see how accepting the middle school students at my school are of each other, and how they add almost everyone in the grade level (and even in other grade levels) to their Facebook friends.  I am seeing some truly positive interactions, and it’s making the adjustment for our new students – several of them newly arrived from other countries – much smoother and filled with a feeling of acceptance and welcome.  However, I don’t recommend such a strategy for most young people.  Kids tend to overshare, and I am certain that they forget who else they’ve allowed to see their updates and other sharing online.  The more people you’ve allowed to see your business – even if it’s “friends only” – the more opportunities there are for someone to cut and paste what you’ve shared, or take screen shots of private chats, and pass your business along among people you have NOT chosen to allow as “friends.” 

Girl with laptopI think the only way to really be safe in this area is for parents to sit down with their kids, and have the kids give the parents a tour of their online spaces.  The parents has to be careful not to immediately judge all of what he or she sees happening online; a part of growing up for young people is to see what’s out there and make their minds up about what they choose to engage in and to distance themselves from.  Look closely at the “friends” or “buddies” with whom your child chats, exchanges text messages or e-mails, leaves comments for and receives comments from.  This IS the way young people communicate today, like it or not.  You can try to legislate every minute detail, or you can help your child make good choices, teach them right from wrong, and then give them opportunities to earn and keep your trust. 

It wouldn’t hurt, though, to borrow a saying I used to hear when I lived in New Jersey: “If you lie down with the dogs, you’re gonna get fleas.”  Help your child understand that others may judge him or her based on the people he or she associates with.  This is both positive and negative.  People who make poor choices about how they put themselves out there – what they say, do, and share – reflect poorly on those who choose to connect with them.  It’s just the way it is.  If you see someone among your child’s friends who behaves in a way you find offensive, use that person as an example, and teach your child how to put some distance between himself and the offending party.  You may wish to restrict computer access based on the people with whom your child associates online.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you need to view and treat online communication the same way you would face-to-face.  If you would not allow something “in real life,” you need to carry the same rules over to the online world.  For young people, there is no real distinction between their virtual world and day-to-day reality.  Fights and arguments that start online find their way to the schoolyard, and stuff that happens at school ALWAYS gets discussed online afterward.  Your job as a parent does not stop when kids get home and plug in; really, it’s just getting exciting.

Image of girl with laptop used with permission of Flickr user P i c t u r e Y o u t h, © all rights reserved.

Image of girl with laptop used with permission of Flickr user P i c t u r e Y o u t h, © all rights reserved.

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