Making decisions about the family's computer and Internet usage can be difficult for parents with children who are often more Internet-savvy than they are. To assist parents to protect themselves and their children online, Judy M. Brunner and Dennis K. Lewis presented an Internet safety, harassment and intimidation program to staff and later to parents -- on what they can do to help -- at Jackson High School recently. A program for administrators was held in June.
Three comprehensive websites with information on things like acronyms, web safety and reporting cybercrimes were given to parents for more specific help: www.isafe.org, www.wiredsafety.org, www.webwisekids.org.
Brunner has been an educational professional since 1981. Lewis is the past president and chairman of the board for the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers and the former director of school policing for a large school district.
Internet safety tips included being aware that Internet safety in effect at home may still leave children vulnerable in other homes without parent monitoring or safety controls installed on computers. Children may be at risk if they spend large amounts of time online (especially at night). You should be suspicious if you find pornography online, your child receives phone calls from numbers you don't recognize, your child receives gifts in the mail from someone you don't know, your child turns the screen off or minimizes it when you pass by, your child is using an account belonging to someone else.
Brunner and Lewis said parents can reduce the risk of Internet misuse by keeping the computer in a common area and purchasing software to monitor your computer.
Parents should tell their children never to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online, never upload their picture online or provide their address, phone number or school name and never download pictures from an unknown source.
The bullying portion of the program was meant to help parents help their children help themselves.
Brunner and Lewis stressed that school staff alone cannot address and fix the problem of bullying. Tips included having an open and honest conversation with your child about harassment and intimidation and monitoring Internet and cell phone usage closely. Bullying can include physical, emotional, relational, sexual and racial abuse.
And keep in mind, they said, your child be the victim of bullying through text messaging, e-mail of social networking. That does not eliminate bullying on the bus, which Lewis believed was more likely especially with long rides and children who become bored.
Warning signs of bullying include unexplained bruises or cuts, non specific headache and abdominal pains, torn clothing, fear of going to or from school, academic decline, loss of a possession or money.
Lewis explained that bullying can include children victimized for their intelligence.
"It's not always because they're small. It could be they are overachievers," he said. Children who don't fit in for that reason will "dummy down" to fit in and appear more average so they are accepted.