Does your child’s smartphone have data? If so, why? That pair of questions was posed by Chris Gonsalvez at a recent Family Information Night for tech safety hosted by the Lethbridge Police Service. As the keynote speaker, Chris led the audience through a humorous and informative view of the promise, potential, and pitfalls of technology. His keynote struck a nice balance to show that technology has transformed lives and has tremendous potential, but users must realize the pitfalls that are associated with that power. His recommendations contain common-sense ideas for adult users of technology, and especially parents who are navigating the tech world with their children. Chris recommended three approaches to safety: conversation, accountability, and responsibility.
Beginning with responsibility, his recommendation was to think carefully about what age a child really needs a smartphone, versus what age a desire can be accommodated. With responsibility goes a contract. By outlining exactly what is and what is not allowed, parents can have a clear line to hold their children to account when it comes to the use of their smartphone. This leads to accountability. Children should be accountable for their tech use, and it’s the responsibility of parents to check. All the speakers at the event recommended spot checks of children’s cell phones to monitor their use. This relates to trust and accountability for the guidelines established, but even more importantly can keep our children safe from dangers they might not think of or fully comprehend. Spot checks lead to conversations about appropriate use and offer teachable moments for both parents and children. One of the police officers admitted that even though it is his job to monitor things like apps, it can be very difficult. His recommendation was not to go learn as much as you can, but to keep to simple google searches. For instance, by searching “apps that hide pictures” he found a number of trending apps that did exactly that, which allowed him to detect one on his daughter’s phone and have a conversation with her. A simple app that looks and functions like a calculator can be the cover of a secret photo storing app. What else is out there that we should be aware of? How can we know? This police officer recommended simple google searches to answer those questions.
A final recommendation that Chris presented was that perhaps we might teach children more about responsible tech use if we encourage creation of quality material for online posting rather than allowing only consuming of what is online. Photography slideshows, videos of favourite activities, music, charitable activities and much more can be created and posted to encourage positive use of technology.
Presented as a family information night, the Safenet Alberta team hosted a range of speakers with expertise in a number of areas including tech experts, psychologists, and police tech/cyber-crime personnel. The breakout sessions hit a range of topics, and slides and handouts can be viewed here: https://sites.google.com/view/safenetab/information-night/presentations. Without audio recordings they are not complete, but the information provided may have some use.
A final presentation in the evening was about the need to filter internet, and to do so especially at the router source for the household. A number of options were explained, and were very similar to those found on the resources page of the Modern Media Committee here: https://modernmedia.nrclethbridge.com/guides-resources/recommended-filters/
Bruce Aleman | Calvin Christian School