Social media expert helps parents negotiate digital divide

No child of any age should have a digital device of any kind in his or her bedroom

RCMP Sgt. Kevin Podbisky (l) welcomes Sam Jingfors of Safer Schools Together to a workshop for parents on digital media at Clearwater Secondary School on Feb. 15.

RCMP Sgt. Kevin Podbisky (l) welcomes Sam Jingfors of Safer Schools Together to a workshop for parents on digital media at Clearwater Secondary School on Feb. 15.

Don’t be in a big rush to buy your child a cellphone. If you do have to get one for him or her (for example, for health reasons) remember that it is still possible to get one that is just a phone and not a multipurpose “smart” device

That was the advice from Sam Jingfors of Safer Schools Together during a talk for parent and guardians about social media awareness and management.

The talk was held Feb. 15 at Clearwater Secondary School with about 40 people in the audience.

Jingfors did not say what would be an appropriate age to allow a child to have a smart device, saying it varied from child to child.

He did say, however, that no child of any age should have a digital device of any kind in his or her bedroom, whether it’s a television set or a smartphone.

He suggested there be a family plug-in station in the kitchen where all smartphones, tablets and similar devices be plugged in overnight.

Parents should check their children’s smartphones and similar devices every evening to see if there is any inappropriate content.

Full use should be made of parental controls on devices to monitor such things as what apps (programs) are downloaded.

All such rules should be set up during a family meeting and should include rules for parents as well, Jingfors said.

“No one predicted 10 years ago how social media would take over the lives of our kids,” he said. “We’re playing catch-up when it comes to social media and education.”

Parents need to be balanced in their approach and not punitive.

“Kids today, particularly in the cities, are ‘raised in captivity,’ but risk-taking is a fundamental part of child development,”  Jingfors said. “That means that often the place they take risks  is with their smartphone.”

Teens today typically spend nine hours per day consulting media.

About 33 per cent of youth have sent sexually explicit messages or “sexting.”

All too often, such messages have resulted in extortion and bullying.

Employers today often check prospective employees’ “digital footprint” before hiring, he said.

Everyone should be concerned about what they might find.

Substitute teachers often find that the first thing their students do when at the start of class is Google their names.

Possibly the hardest hitting portion of the evening was a montage Jingfors presented taken from the most common video games.

The montage showed people being dismembered and tortured.

Some of the worst scenes came from Grand Theft Auto V, a video game that generated $800 million in revenue on its first day of sale.

Jingfors also gave presentations to students as well as teachers and law enforcement staff while he was in Clearwater.

 

His visit was sponsored by the Clearwater Local Action Team with funding from Doctors of BC plus the provincial government.