Alright, time to get real!
Let me first begin by saying that I usually steer clear of voicing my political or controversial opinions because I think there is a certain time and place for all of that. Not to say I don’t have opinions, cause I really do but I think social media is usually not the place to share those thoughts. But some things transpired today and I feel like my thoughts are just needing to spew out right now… so I’m gonna let them!
The “deadly” concoction that made me feel the need to share (in a nutshell):
Last night I read a horrifying article about a man who posed as someone else on a social media outlet and convinced a 14 year old girl to meet with him. When he met up with her, he kidnapped her, held her against her will and I am sure you can imagine the kinds of things he did to her.
Today, I had three students bring cell phones to school which prompted all my students to talk about their Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
Why in the world do FOURTH GRADERS – 10 YEAR OLDS have
a). their own expensive smart phones and
b). social media accounts of any kind?
Now, I grew up in this technological age and got a cell phone (a bulky Nokia that could only call) when I was in the 7th grade. I had just started playing middle school sports and the bus would get home from games later than my parents got home, so they wanted me to have a way to call them to come pick me up or if there was an emergency when I was far away. My phone could do nothing cool because at this point smartphones were not even a thing. In fact I didn’t even get my first smartphone until I was in my last semester of college and had been married for a year! Some of this fact comes because I am a wee bit anti cellphone, but mostly I just feel like I have some common sense!
Fourth graders are babies, they really are. They are growing up and are ready to accept more responsibility in some ways, but they are still just young, naive, sweet babies! Besides the fact that I am partially against all things electronic for kids (video games, excessive tv, tablets, phones, etc.) I know that those things can be okay in moderation. But for the love of pete, there is literally no reason on this earth that a child in the fourth grade needs to have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or any other thing like that! I know that the majority of children will use these things and never be taken advantage of, kidnapped or tricked, but why as a parent would you even risk it? What benefit is there to a young child having these things on their phone? I really cannot think of a single one! Kids should be playing outside, building forts, reading, coloring, playing with games or toys. NOT spending their time with their nose in a phone on social media!
As an adult I have all of these above mentioned apps (minus snapchat) and don’t get me wrong, I love my Instagram and Facebook. They keep me connected to family that lives far away, help me document exciting moments in life and provide some relaxing entertainment after a hard day’s work. But I am 25 years old and know how to be smart with these things. I don’t friend people I don’t know, I set my accounts to private, I don’t post my address or other personal information. I can make wise choices. A fourth grader cannot!
When my students were having their conversation about all the social media they had I asked them to raise their hand if they had their own smartphone or tablet at home. Every single student except 1 raised their hand. Now this really didn’t surprise me, I know that most kids today have these things. But then I asked them to raise their hands if on those devices they have Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Three of the 18 who had raised there hands before did not have those apps and just use their phones for games and phone calls. But that is 15 children out of my class who are 10 years old and have social media accounts that are really not meant for people under the age of 18!
I saw this as an opportunity to talk to them about phone and internet safety. We discussed how there are bad people out there and they use those things to hurt people. We talked about how a person you don’t know on the internet is just like a stranger you meet on the street. We discussed how their parents should be able to access all of their accounts to make sure they are being safe and how they should always tell someone if anything or anyone seems suspicious.
Many of my kids acted like this was all brand new information to them. Like they had not been told this by their parents before and some were even shocked to hear that some people pretend to be something they are not online to hurt others.
This broke my heart.
I know I am not a parent to a child on the outside world yet, and it will be years before I have a child that can even operate social media but I still cannot imagine allowing my child to use those things at all, but let alone without talking to them about the risks and dangers.
Some of my student’s parents may not even be aware that their child has these things. They also may be new to certain social media outlets and don’t know the risks. I give these parents a little grace, but as an adult who works with kids every day, I urge all parents to do some research, ask questions and get more involved with what your kids are doing on their phones! You can never be to careful with your precious children!
Now I have to end this by saying that I am not trying to offend anyone. How you parent your child or how you monitor electronics is your choice! I know many parents do set guide lines and are knowledgeable of what their child is doing online, but I also know that sometimes people can be blind to these things and it is important enough that I felt like I needed to say something!
Below are some articles about internet safety and kids that might be helpful: