Seat Belts, SmartPhones & Friday Night “Likes”

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I have made several hundred presentations over the past four years to students, parents and school administrators related to our RESPONSIBLE TECHNOLOGY SERIES. To date, I’ve now spoken to over 140,000 people. The intent of each presentation is to bring a level of awareness on the evolution and use of technology in our culture. Although some have suggested we should reset the technology clock back to pre-Internet days, I argue that we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Although most would agree that cars have brought an era of mobility and independence to most families – it has not been without its own issues. Urban sprawl, pollution, accidents, drunk driving, have all resulted from the introduction of the automobile at the turn of the 20th century. However, with each problem was born a solution.

For example: Seat belts were introduced, air bags, anti-lock brakes, collapsible steering columns, softer dash-boards, rearview mirrors and cameras – and many other safety features. From my perspective, the smartphone and tablet are where automobile technology was in the 1960’s. Consider 2015, “the pre-seat-belt era” of the smartphone.

Each era of parenting is filled with its own set of challenges — places and people we don’t want our children visiting. It might be a part of town known for violence and drug abuse. Or perhaps it’s an area where teens have been known to race their cars – out-of-sight from the police or traffic. In my case, my Mom was pretty good in issuing the third-degree about where I went on Friday night and with whom. She knew almost every place I might venture and personally knew my friends and their parents. However, curiosity often got the best of me and I was known to “color outside of the lines” during my “Friday Night Likes” and excursions.

The same is true today – however, we aren’t just concerned about the physical places where our children and grandchildren venture. We need to be equally concerned with the digital places they visit and the “friends” they’ve accumulated with the devices we’ve freely placed in their hands.

This blog is filled with advice on techniques on how to manage your child’s activity when using digital technology. However, I recently came across a very useful site created in the UK by NSPCC NetAware Although the site was developed for parents and children living in the United Kingdom, it’s important to understand that on the Internet, we live in a global village. There are no nations, walls or boundaries. To that end, I have found their material as appropriate for the United States as for the UK.

If you want a rich, detailed and easy-to-use overview of apps and websites that are being visited by today’s youth, look no further than the NetAware site. Although they do an excellent job of analyzing the apps — rating each according to sexual content, violence, bullying and suicide — it often conflicts with many of the articles related to such apps as Kik, SnapChat and Ask.Fm. To that end, use their ratings only as a guide. You’ll need to make your own decision.

Finally, take a look at this ingenious app that a young woman created to help reduce cyberbullying. Although simple, it gets to the heart of the problem of cyberbullying, i.e., “not taking 5 seconds to think” before clicking send.

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