This is the first generation in history where parents and their children have cellphones. So a certain degree of uncertainty is only natural, according to Rodger Dinwiddie, an educational consultant who spoke with school system employees Monday at WCHS.
“When it comes to children and cellphones, there is no norm,” said Dinwiddie. “We’re building the airplane as we’re flying.”
Dinwiddie spoke to local school officials about a variety of Internet-related issues such as cyberbullying, sexting, and monitoring online activity. He said it’s crucial for parents to keep a close eye on their children online and he said most parents realize this.
“In a survey, 88 percent of teens said their parents have talked to them about social media behavior,” said Dinwiddie.
He gave school officials an abbreviation quiz to see how in tune they are to the latest text lingo being used by students. Many of the abbreviations used by kids weren’t known by the adults. A sampling includes:
182 – I hate you
ASL – Age, sex, location
MOS – Mother over shoulder
IPN – I’m posing nude
LMRL – Let’s meet in real life
Dinwiddie said despite popular perception, cyberbullying is not rampant.
He pointed to statistics that go back to 2007 which indicate about 5 percent of children in grades 3-12 get bullied online at least two to three times per month. He said about 26 percent of kids report getting bullied online at least once in their lifetime.
“If you look at those numbers, what does that really tell us about cyberbullying?” asked Dinwiddie. “It tells us 74 percent of children have never been cyberbullied."
Dinwiddie continued, "Everybody tends to think kids are crazy with technology, but the truth is the majority of kids are using technology the right way. The majority of kids aren’t waking up and saying, ‘Whose life can I make a living hell today.’”
When it comes to sexting and sending revealing photos either online or by text, Dinwiddie says the problem gets worse as students age. He pointed to a survey that indicates only 2 percent of 11-year-olds have ever sent a sexually explicit picture. As you’d expect, that number climbs as students age. He said 20 percent of 18-year-olds admitted to sending such a picture.
Dinwiddie says most students do not use Facebook as their social media site of choice. He said Snapchat and Instagram are far more common.
When it comes to texting, he said cellphone companies such as Verizon and AT&T can retrieve texts from as far back as 10 years.
“There is very little that really disappears,” Dinwiddie said.
Dinwiddie encouraged school officials to use their school websites to promote links to online material that may be helpful to parents. He said stopbullying.gov and cyberbullying.org are two sites packed with information. There are also apps, many of them free, that can be downloaded on your child’s device to monitor their activity.
The event was sponsored by Homeland Community Bank.