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Social media 101 with Downers Grove Township

Recently, the Downers Grove Township was invited to participate in the first-ever “Social Media Parents Night” hosted by Gower School District 62 in Burr Ridge.

The panel: District Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Larratta, Gower; West Engaged Learning Specialist Vicky O’Boyle; Gower West Principal Gina Rodewald; Gower Middle Engaged Learning Specialist Kevin Neubert; Angie Zucchero Burr Ridge Police Department; and Catherine Rager Township of Downers Grove. 

Technology advances at lightning speed. If you are tech savvy, or a teen, you’ll probably keep up. However, parents may not know the social media sites.

Questions parents ask: Is the site safe or exploitive? Is my child using it respectfully with other students? Is my child sharing information or photos that shouldn’t be shared or is inappropriate? How can I block my child from using an unapproved site? How much time should my child spend on this type of communication? What happens if my child is bullied?

The police and township staff shared that inappropriate social media messaging can be a source of conflict in and out of school.

Current applications students use are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Keek, DigiSocial, Snapchat, Oovo, Voxer, Xbox Live, Skype, Facetime and Kik. Most sites share chat, photos and/or videos, while some specialize more in one medium. Rules can be few and communication inappropriate at times (Facebook), but positive connections can be made, as well. 

Others “apps” provide real-time pictures that can be saved with cool enhancements (Instagram), or not saved and fleeting (Snapchat). Skype and Facetime offer real-time live video. Safeguards vary from site to site and are worth investigating.

Facebook and Instagram users must be 13 or older. Instagram photos are public and can be shared across multiple media platforms allowing for mature content to creep in, or location information to be shared (unless privacy settings are enabled).

Social media can be fun, but knowledge and safety is key. School specialists can help parents understand how to safeguard communications, and parents must “go back to school” to strike a balance between their children’s technical skills and knowledge vs. their judgment and reasoning capabilities.

Cathy Rager is a prevention specialist with Downers Grove Township

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