A perfect teaching moment fell into my lap last week. Long story short, my son’s cell phone (which is PROHIBITED at school during school hours) was grabbed from his hand when he went to text me that he didn’t need to stay after school, as we had planned. The other student had asked my son for his phone number, and my son wisely told him no. The kid grabbed my son’s phone and called his own phone, thereby getting my son’s phone number.
An hour later, my son received a text from “Susie,” one of his good friends. My son knew that Susie didn’t have a phone or texting, so he was suspicious. (YES! My casual conversations about online safety, etc., have paid off!) He asked the texter couple of questions, and the answers got more unlikely (spelling/grammar mistakes he knew Susie wouldn’t do, etc.) So he shut off the phone. He was pretty upset and felt “icky.”
That was about it, but he was scared. He made all the right choices, and I told him that. My 14-year-old daughter was in the car, so we all had a good conversation about etiquette, safety, bullying, etc. We did some detective work (duh, recent calls, text number, not hard) and suspect that the student who grabbed the phone gave my son’s number to another student who did the texting. We can’t prove anything, of course, but what to do?
I am going to contact the principal. It isn’t necessarily to take any action, but to illustrate a point. I expect I’ll be told that my son should not have the phone at school. This is why schools can no longer keep their heads in the sand about this! Students must be taught appropriate behavior and expectations. The phones are there, and they are used outside of school. The phone isn’t the point – it’s the behavior. Stealing another student’s property and pretending to be someone else are NOT acceptable behaviors.
Today, I ran across a great blog post on a similar topic, How we Fail Young Students with Facebook by @pernilleripp. Basically, she’s saying that by not teaching kids about using the tools (Facebook, texting, etc) they are going on there with no instruction. They are going online, whether they are supposed to or not.
Kids that are not being taught how to use the site safely, because we choose to pretend they are not signing up.
My kids get a great deal of education about online saftey, etc., because of my work. My son handled the texting incident with maturity and he made the right decisions. However, I know many families where kids are just forbidden to go on YouTube, or even have an iPod because they might find something. Parents don’t know how to teach kids internet safety, so it’s just forbidden.
This might work with some kids, but definitely not all. This is why I lean towards having a partnership with schools and families in teaching these skills. Teachers and parents will have to learn the skills – this is new territory for many of them.
For the record, I do following Facebook’s age restrictions. My daughter was 13, my son will be 13 when he gets a Facebook page. Does that mean we don’t talk about it? Nope. I’m hoping he’ll be much better prepared when he does get a Facebook page. And my daughter? I still know her password, and will until she’s 16.