Teachers Shouldn’t Be Responsible for Kids’ Online Safety, Parents Need to Step Up


Teachers Shouldn't Be Responsible for Kids' Online Safety, Parents Need to Step Up

It’s no secret that we rely on technology in our modern world. Gone are the days of stretching the kitchen phone cord as far as it will reach, and folding handwritten notes with pull-tabs for our friends. Our children now have access to an endless wealth of information at their fingertips. They learn, read, play, socialize, and share their lives on a smartphone, at increasingly younger ages. While some parents pledge to wait until 8th grade to buy their children smartphones, 63% of kids have smartphones by the age of 12. Even children without smartphones have access to the internet through family or school computers, friends’ smartphones, and tablets. The harsh truth? Your kids are probably seeing things that they shouldn’t see on the internet. 

The New Jersey Herald reports that a shocking 94% of kids will see porn by the age of 14, and teachers frequently catch students sharing inappropriate content with friends at school. Parents, we need your involvement. Teachers are not the enemy. Many of you demand that schools implement stronger network security and tougher rules, so students aren’t allowed access to such sites in the first place. The truth is it is nearly impossible to keep 25 or more students on task when they have devices in front of them. No matter how tough the network restrictions, some 10-year-old computer genius always finds a way to circumvent it. Of course, teachers should do everything in their power to keep students safe on the internet but the real work of keeping kids safe, however, starts at home. Students that are taught internet responsibility by their parents are more likely to use the internet appropriately in school.

Keeping kids safe on the internet in a world that relies on technology can feel like a full-time job. Still, there are reasonable things parents can do to keep their children safe.

1. Talk to Your Kids

It’s time to have “the talk” with your children. Much in the same way that you would explain your family’s expectations and morals around driving a car, having sex, drinking, etc… you need to be talking about internet and smartphone usage. It’s a powerful and useful tool that can have real consequences. If you take it seriously, your children will too.

2. Private Information Stays Private

Teach your children to never give out private information on the internet. Addresses and phone numbers should only be entered by an adult. For everything they post online, ask them to consider how they would feel about allowing Grandma to read what they have written. If you’d be ashamed for Grandma to see it, don’t put it on the internet. 

3. Create a Contract

Make a contract that outlines your rules for internet/phone usage. Have your children sign it, and hold them accountable if when they mess up. Make sure your contract covers the amount of screen time you permit each day, which apps and sites they may and may not use, as well as the responsibility of caring for and using a device. Be upfront about consequences for a breach in contract, and ways to earn back your trust. 

4. Keep the Computer in a Common Space

Prevent kids from surfing the internet in private. Use parental control settings on your browser, and keep your computer in a common area with adult supervision. 

5. Use Parental Control Apps

There are a number of affordable parental control apps that can help you monitor the amount of time your child spends on the internet, as well as the content they view. $10 a month is a worthy investment if it saves you the endless task of scrolling through emoji-laden text messages. 

6. Keep The Conversation Going

This isn’t a one-and-done kind of conversation. As your kids grow, make new friends and gain access to new platforms, they will need to be reminded to adhere to safety expectations around internet and media usage. It seems like common sense, but families are busy and smartphones are convenient. Make it a priority to check in with your kids. 

The internet can be a powerful tool and a positive way for family and friends to connect. Keeping your children from using the internet will be a losing battle. Keeping them safe is something you can do. 

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Kristen Nance

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Kristen Nance is an elementary school teacher in Oregon. She is passionate about children's literature, has an affinity for black cats, and is obsessed with ravens. She reads every mystery novel she can get her hands on, and feels happiest when she is near the ocean.

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