Personal tablets and laptop computers are standard equipment for most students today. Add in the fact that many kids have cell phones and it means kids can be online almost anywhere and anytime. That adds a new dimension of concern for parents as they teach their children to be safe in a 24/7 world.
“Technology is everywhere today,” said Cynthia Fisher, D.O., a Family Medicine Phsyican at
ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh. “Most schools are using tablets and laptops for day-to-day learning, so they have become essential learning tools. Keeping track of how our children are using the technology available to them is a very important aspect of our role as a parent.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers this advice for helping manage kids’ online presence and activity:
- Keep tablets and computers in a common area where a child’s use can be monitored.
- Learn about the programs and apps your child is using.
- Discuss internet safety, show an interest in your child’s online life and ask questions.
- Set up a Family Media Plan for how technology devices are used. (See www.healthychildren.org for more information).
- Use online family protection programs (parental controls) to limit and monitor online activity.
In addition, the Family Online Safety Institute recommends:
- Set ground rules such as time limits, when and where devices can be used and enforce consequences.
- “Friend” and “follow” your kids on social media while respecting their space and freedom.
- Explore and share interesting positive online experiences.
- Be a good digital role model. Curb your own bad habits, such as no phone at the dinner table, and show kids how to collaborate and be kind online.
How to Have Conversations Around Bullying
Dr. Fisher noted that in addition to internet safety, cyberbullying can also be a problem for kids.
“When bullying happens over social media, it might be more difficult for parents, teachers and others to be aware of,” she said.
The AAP notes that cyberbullying can happen through text messaging, on social media sites, apps, e-mail, web forums or multi-player online games. It can involve:
- Sending mean text messages
- Sharing embarrassing photos
- Making up and spreading untrue stories
- Telling others to ignore someone or leave them out of activities
“The challenging problem of cyberbullying is that can happen anywhere, anyplace, anytime of the day, it’s anonymous, and it can spread quickly,” said Dr. Fisher. “It can contribute to physical and mental health problems and academic struggles. Bullying of any kind should not be tolerated and needs to be addressed quickly.”
The AAP offers this advice for parents of children being cyberbullied:
- Don’t punish your child. Don’t threaten to take away your child’s device or cut their time online. They may see this as punishment and be less willing to tell you about bullying situations in the future.
- If there is online evidence, save a screenshot. This may be helpful if it becomes necessary to report the event.
- Talk with your child about the experience. Studies show that having just one person listen and support kids who have been bullied helps them better able to handle the situation in a healthy way.
- Most social media platforms have a process for reporting bad behavior. If a classmate is bullying, you can report it to the school. If the bullying involves threats of physical harm, you can consider reporting to the police.
- A child’s bullying experience can also be stressful for a parent. Parents should consider finding someone to talk to for support. Talk with your pediatrician about resources for dealing with bullying.
- If a child is bullying or is a bystander to bullying, quick action also needs to be taken.
“Be sure your child knows that bullying is never okay,” said Dr. Fisher. “Be a positive role model in-person and online. Show them how to have empathy for others. If necessary, develop solutions with your child’s school principal, teachers, social workers or psychologists, and parents of the children your child has bullied.”
Dr. Fisher noted that children need to learn how to manage with his/her aggressive feelings in a way that is not threatening to others.
“Monitoring our children’s online lives is an important responsibility,” she said. “Open lines of communication about a child’s activity can be a great way to establish an even stronger bond between parent and child and increase trust, and those are relationship assets that are extremely valuable.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.