Parenting and cyber safety
The Michigan Attorney General’s office has great resources for parents to protect their children from cyberbullying.
These days a majority of teens have access to the internet, and often this access can be used in private. As parents, it is extremely important that we are vigilant in monitoring our children’s use of technology. Issues such as cyberbullying and sexting amongst teens are increasing at an alarming rate. For example, studies have shown that about one in every five to 10 teens, both male and female, have sent sexually suggestive pictures of themselves. About one in every three to eight teens have received them. Often, when a teen is involved with sexting, they may be the victim of threats, coercion or manipulation.
So what are some options for parents to educate themselves about these issues of cyber safety and monitoring of technology? The Michigan Attorney General’s office has a great online resource called Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (CSI). For example, there are links for parental controls for social networking sites, online gaming parental controls and search engine safety tips. There is a sample online safety contract that parents can utilize, as well as social networking. A great resource available is called OK2SAY, a program designed to empower Michigan citizens to share and respond to student safety threats. This 24/7 multimedia helpline is manned by trained OK2SAY technicians. OK2SAY encourages confidential tips on criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees and schools. The system works the following way:
- A confidential tip is submitted. This can be done by phone, website, text or mobile app.
- Information is forwarded to schools, law enforcement, Community Mental Health or DHHS.
- Officials investigate the issue and respond accordingly.
- The tip is resolved and an OK2SAY outcome report is completed.
OK2SAY provides presentations that are free for students in grades 6-12. The presentation will give an explanation on how OK2SAY works and touches on bullying, peer abuse, suicide and gun violence. To schedule, register on the OK2SAY website.
For more information on parenting of teens, visit Michigan State University Extension. MSU Extension offers a variety of educational programs throughout the state, including an educational program call Building Strong Adolescents. To find a program near you, go to http://msue.anr.msu.edu for more information.