Friday, January 29, 2010

The Most Frightening Part of Increased Plugged-In Time

So, why should we as educators be frightened that our kids are now spending more and more hours online or plugged-in to social media? Obviously the more our kids stay plugged in then the less they're reading, sleeping, working on schoolwork or spending time with family. However, there is a much more frightening aspect of digital natives increasing their already astonishing number of hours plugged in to social media. I'll explain.

I met last week with two Department of Justice agents who specialize in cybercrimes. We spent about almost two hours discussing potential online threats and dangers our kids face every day. I sat stunned as they gave me statistic after statistic about how many children and teens have had conversations online with complete strangers, how many of those strangers have lied about how old they actually are, how many of those strangers have told the truth about how old they are but the kids don't care, and (the most frightening of all) how many children and teens have received the invitation LMIRL (let's meet in real life). As an educator whose entire career has been in the digital age, I have seen and dealt with all sorts of things. I am neither naive nor easily shocked. However, after our conversation I felt overwhelmed.

The good news for educators and parents is that there are measures we can take to protect our kids. The greatest weapon against the evils that lurk in the chat rooms and social networking sites is education. We will be doing an educational series soon not only about the threats I've mentioned here but also about other digital dangers including sexting, cyberstalking and more. We're going to host the Department of Justice agents for an assembly one morning in school to educate the students and then for an assembly of a much more graphic nature at night to show the stark reality to our parents. This assembly will be sandwiched between Advisory sessions about sexting, compulsive texting, cyberbullying, cyberstalking and more. There are a number of great resources available but the newest one I've come across is A Thin Line. We'll probably use much of their information in our Advisory sessions while the DOJ will use its own material.

I encourage you to contact the FBI or Department of Justice, speak to someone who works with cybercrimes, and invite them to your office to get you caught up on how predators are hunting our kids. You will be shocked. I guarantee it.

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