Whether you were a student, parent, or faculty member, Wayland was treated to an eye opening Internet Safety talk on Tuesday with National Internet Safety Expert, Katie Greer. WaylandCares was proud to bring this presenter to our community, reinforcing the mission of helping our youth make healthy decisions.

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Internet use is an instrumental part of our daily lives and finding the right balance and safe methods for our youth is extremely important. Greer spoke with all Wayland Middle and High School students during the day and with parents and community members in the evening. Greer’s number one message was “I am all for using the internet, just use it safely and be respectful. These are powerful devices we are just handing over to our kids; it is a fully accessible outlet to the world in their pocket. They need to be monitored and used in a safe and appropriate way.”

Greer started with “make sure you are only friending people you know personally.” She went on to say “it scares me when I look at a youth’s instagram or snapchat accounts and they are friends with hundreds if not thousands of people. It can be dangerous and scary who these kids have the opportunity to be communicating with.  Make sure your profiles are private and you’re not friending someone you don’t know personally.”

Social media and your online presence are our new calling cards and brand as to who we are. We need to make sure that we are putting our best self forward and are not providing viewers with the ability to make inaccurate judgment about who we are and what we represent. Greer reported over 71% of college’s report that they check applicant’s social media profiles and online presence prior to even reviewing the students complete application, test scores, and transcripts.

Greer went onto talk about the App’s she feels are totally inappropriate for our youth. Kik, Snapchat (ok if used safely), Omegle (a site all about live video chatting with strangers), YikYak, Flinch, Ask.fm. Greer stated to both students and parents that she wants to find the good and the positive usage for all technology; with these apps and sites she simply cannot. These websites come and go quickly. The kids follow these trends much faster than parents, so they need constant monitoring. Here are a few of her suggestions:

  • Have a family account for purchasing App’s and asking your kids to make a 45 second pitch about why they needed a new App. Don’t just let them purchase anything.
  • Store and charge all devices at night in parents’ room. “Nothing good happens after 9:00PM on these devices. Conversations go downhill and kids are up all night on their phones when they should be getting valuable sleep.”
  • Check text messages and call logs periodically. See who your children are communicating with and what messages they are receiving.
  • Disable location tracking for individual App’s. Your kids love taking photos and documenting their daily events. This information becomes public and strangers can then track where and what your children are doing. Go into Settings, Location Services and turn off all location App’s other than the few you need GPS (maps, etc.)
  • Call your internet supplier and ask what service they provide to keep your kids safe.
  • Turn on the privacy settings on Wii and X-BOX so your kids are not playing games against strangers.

Greer spoke about sexting and how it is illegal to receive or distribute a pornographic image of someone under the age of 18. A pornographic image is defined as nude or semi-nude that is sexually explicit and or focused on a specific area of someone under age 18. You can be charged with a misdemeanor in the state of MA and charge federally as a felony if the police decide to pursue a case. Greer reminded parents that that law states, users on Instagram, Facebook, Tumbler, Vine and Google+ must legally be 13 years old. If you are using those sites under age and have any problems, it is very hard to get legal help to track any misuse.

When speaking about texting or sending any information electronically, Greer reminder students and parents alike that you may think your messaging can be deleted, but there is always a history. Every time you send a text, a message, a photo, anything, there is a digital footprint made on both your account and that of the receivers. In addition to the physical devices, it also lives on your cell phone provider’s servers. Once it is sent, it also is open to any interpretation that the person on the receiving end chooses to put on it. It also becomes infinitely able to be sent and distributed without your authorization. With this, Greer encouraged all students and parents to think before your text/post/send, and be proud of everything you are putting out there.

While we raise these concerns we want to reinforce the positives about social networking Katie Greer also shared several stories of the power behind using social media in a positive way. How in one community someone created an Instagram account and sent out 6 quick positive messages about individual students in the high school. Over the course of 2 years the impact on the community was huge. National test scores rose, attendance at community events increased and overall morale improved greatly. Unbeknown to everyone it was the valedictorian of the graduating class who was sending these messages. When he revealed this at graduation he said, “this took me less than 5 minutes a day. I hope it has brought as much pleasure to you, as it did to me in sending these messages.” Wayland is an incredible community; we have some of the best schools in our country and unlimited opportunities for our kids. Join WaylandCares in our mission to help our kids make healthy decisions and continue to better our community.