Perala Kids, Get off that Phone!

When I was a kid, we got one channel on our television set. Sometimes I would stay up late enough to hear the public service announcement as it scrolled across the screen: “Parents, it is 11 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” Instantly, I was curious about “children” who were clearly having a life far beyond their parents’ sofa in a darkened living room. There was a big world out there. I recognized this again due to our party-line telephone, the greatest invention ever, providing loads of fun for me and my sisters when my parents were outside the house, farming. If we happened to pick up the phone when a neighbor was using it, we might hear conversations in German or Finnish – until in accented English, someone would say, “Perala kids. Hang up that phone!” My how the world has changed.

This holiday season, children may receive gifts of cell phones, iPads, laptop computers, or other digital devices which give them instant access to the internet based social media. Many children already post messages and photos online. This should give concerned parents pause. I urge you to be as aware of where your children are online and what they are doing there as you are about their location and activities in the real world. If we’d not allow them to post photos of a certain type on our house wall, shout statements that depart from our family values, or hangout where perverts may be lurking, then why would we passively permit it in the online world? We need to remember, the online world is their real world.

Unlike in our real world where a questionable photo can be removed or an awful statement apologized for, such is not the case in the internet world. The internet is “an unforgiving beast”. What is posted one time is there forever. Even if removed, that photo, statement, or conversations exist in digital auto-archives. And some young people, as they explore the boundaries of growing up, may be posting distasteful and potentially dangerous information about themselves and others. As caring adults, it is our job to balance their need for freedom with keeping them safe, now and into the future, when they want a scholarship, a job, a political office, etc.

As a school district, we must get involved when something that’s posted online creates a substantial disturbance at school. It doesn’t matter if the student used his or her own digital device or posted it outside of school hours. Always, someone is emotionally hurt by improper messages and/or photographs. It could be your child. It’s just not right.

Should you want to learn more, visit: http://www.commonsensemedia.org. Scroll down the headings to the “Advice” webpages. You will find a menu on the left divided by age, entertainment type, and topic. You may wish to put this at the top of your “to do” list today, prior to buying that gift of a digital device. As I reflect on my own youth, I am, at this age, glad for the neighbor ladies’ telecommunications monitoring. It wasn’t such a bad thing, after all, to hear, “Perala kids, hang up that phone!”

 

 

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