Last year, we were invited to conduct cyber-safety boot camps at Parent Teacher Organization meetings at schools across New England.  We learned that parents are purchasing smart phones for their kids and have little knowledge of the implications and boundaries that need to be set.  Many did not understand about geo-tagging which gives exact location when kids post text and pictures.

Today we need to meet kids where they are and it’s not on the playground its on social networking and Internet sites.  We listen to experts say that we should not engage online with our kids.  Our research indicates that few adults are interacting with kids online and left to their own devices, kids are making risky choices.

At Nicastro Consultants, we offer social media boot camp for parents, teachers and school administrators who are interested in understanding the world our kids now live in. We provides strategies that ensure cyber-safety best practices.

As we welcome families back to school, we need to be vigilant about the importance of cyber-safety and appropriate behavior online and off.  At Nicastro Consultants, a boutique information technology and social media strategy consulting firm, we work with parents, schools and small businesses to use technology responsibly and effectively.

“Parents be proactive, and one step ahead of your kids in terms of the technology,” said Sonnie Santos, founder of Web Safety, an advocacy organization.  Some cyber-safety tips:

  • Do a Google search of yourself and your child — the goal is to control what is out there.
  • Understand that they are in the midst of a social media revolution.
  • Listen to what they are saying; watch what they are doing.
  • Define appropriate age for a social networking presence (minimum age 13).
  • Control social networking accounts and pass-words.
  • Limit their friends to who they know and check their list — don’t let them friend anyone they do not know personally.
  • Become your kids’ “friend” on Facebook and other social networking sites. Regularly review their wall, posts, news feeds and photos (if they protest, ask out why).
  • Set security settings, review them frequently.
  • Set best practices, values and standards.
  • Set limits: supervise time and duration.
  • Define clear consequences for misuse — follow through.
  • Develop a Networlding (values-based) approach to social networking with regard to the safest and healthiest practices for phone and internet use.
  • Know the social networking policies of your school and your child’s friends.
  • Keep a family computer in the family area with screen facing out.
  • Do not allow kids to take cell phones to bed, leave them in the kitchen charging.
  • Explain to your child about the values of privacy — nothing on social media is private!
  • Set rules around cyber “talk” or “post” inappropriate language is not tolerated.
  • Set standards — teens can be impulsive. They need to understand that what they write on social networking sites can stay there forever and impact their future.
  • Create a values-based approach to social networking. Talk about core-values.
  • Discuss cyber-values such as ‘friending’, confidentiality, privacy, security.

As communities struggle with the fall out of kids on social media, we must help set cyber-safety standards with law enforcement and work to enforce them at home and in school. Through education, empowerment and enforcement, we help keep kids stay safe online. Our goal is to prevent innocent young adults from taking online risks that have life time consequences.  We empower parents, schools and kids through social media education helping guide and enforce cyber-safety standards.