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Category: Social Media Safety

How to Raise Healthy Kids in a Digital Age

Raising Healthy Kids in a Digital World

Parenting has always been a challenge, and it’s only become more complex as children are born into and grow up in the digital age. We don’t understand all the effects of social media, online gaming, and other screen time activities on children, and we continue to receive conflicting information.

Sometimes the kids understand tech better than their parents. And how can parents monitor what their kids are doing in the digital world? There’s a lot to think about, but fundamental truths haven’t changed.

As with any other aspect of life, raising healthy kids in the digital age calls for flexibility, creativity, openness, and leading by example. Create space for a digital presence in your child’s world proactively so you can shape it rather than it taking over. 

Aim for compromise

Screens are ubiquitous. Even if you didn’t allow them at home, kids will be exposed to them at school or at friends’ and relatives’ homes. So strive for balance, rather than complete restriction. Decide when you’re ready to let your kid have their own smartphone or tablet, and have some conversations with them ahead of time about what they’ll use it for and how often. Some parents make a contract with their kids. If you do this, check in regularly to see what your child is doing and address any violations to your agreement in a timely manner. If you remember that it’s probably a matter of when, not if, they break one of the rules, you’ll be able to keep a calmer head when that time comes. 

Educate about cyberbullying

No one wants their kid to be bullied, online or off, and what’s more, no parent wants to find out their kid is bullying someone else. Before screens, the rules could be learned in social settings and at school. But with the relative lack of oversight and anonymity digital tools offer, it’s easier for kids (and adults, for that matter) to be mean to each other. Have a direct conversation with your children about what cyberbullying is and how to respond if it happens to them or they witness it. Hint: It’s better to respond and seek resolution in person than online. 

Use video chat

It’s no secret that sitting in front of a screen for hours on end isn’t the best for kids. But do we really know just what the effects of screen time on developing brains are, especially on young children? A review of various studies out there found that there are cognitive costs to too much screen time, but certain uses, such as video chatting with relatives, can be more helpful than harmful. Video chatting allows for a true conversation that includes nonverbal communication and can help support relationships with people who may not live nearby. 

Be a good role model

It’s not just our kids who need a healthy relationship with tech—we do too. The first thing to do if you want your kids to spend less time on screens is to set a good example by putting away your own devices more. Don’t want them to have phones at the dinner table? You better not either. And not only that, but talk with your kids about what you do on the computer and why. Engage them in conversations about the benefits and drawbacks of Instagram or online gaming. Be thoughtful in your own habits of picking up and putting down the phone. Even when you’re not discussing it with your children, they’ll notice what you do. 

Watch media as a family

Sharing media can certainly include movie night, but you might also consider viewing TED Talks or YouTube videos, or listening to podcasts with your kids. Kids use digital tools in their homework and to learn about the world, so encourage that behavior by consuming educational media with them. Here are a few TED Talk suggestions to get you started. By making this an activity you do together, you’ll contribute to family bonding. 

Maintain tech-free zones

Make sure you create time that doesn’t involve screens. The dinner table, an outing to the park, or the drive to/from school are all good options. This goes back to the idea of balance. When you allow kids time to connect with their friends online as well as take them out into nature, for example, they learn to appreciate the various ways they can interact with others. Rather than simply telling them to put down their devices, take them out and show them what the world has to offer.

Respect social media

Much of the concern about digital has to do with how much time kids spend on social media. And while there’s lots of grousing about the risks of social media, we sometimes overlook its benefits. Sites like Instagram and Twitter can help kids stay connected with friends and discover new interests. For LGBTQ kids or others with marginalized identities, digital platforms can offer a way (and sometimes the only way) to find community. Have conversations with your kids about what they’re doing on social media and make sure they understand that what they share online never really goes away. Keep track of who they’re connecting with, so you can find out early if a questionable stranger is interacting with your child. 

Keep the conversation going

Remember that contract mentioned earlier about tech use? Don’t treat it as a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing, but something you discuss regularly—there’s a better chance of it working that way. In order to not let the digital world distract your child from the physical world, make it part of your regular conversations rather than just bringing it up when something might be going wrong.

Part of raising healthy children in our digital world, continually be curious about what your child does on the computer and why. Ask to see the pictures they’re looking at on Instagram. And discuss with your child why everything they see on the Internet isn’t always as it appears. Just as with advertising in the old days, curated online personalities can produce insecurity around not living up to impossible standards. Help your children understand that what they see online isn’t necessarily a reflection of reality.

By Morgen Henderson

Parenting has always been a challenge, and it’s only become more complex as children are born into and grow up in the digital age. We don’t understand all the effects of social media, online gaming, and other screen time activities on children, and we continue to receive conflicting information.

Sometimes the kids understand tech better than their parents. And how can parents monitor what their kids are doing in the digital world? There’s a lot to think about, but fundamental truths haven’t changed.

As with any other aspect of life, raising healthy kids in the digital age calls for flexibility, creativity, openness, and leading by example. Create space for a digital presence in your child’s world proactively so you can shape it rather than it taking over. 

Aim for compromise

Screens are ubiquitous. Even if you didn’t allow them at home, kids will be exposed to them at school or at friends’ and relatives’ homes. So strive for balance, rather than complete restriction. Decide when you’re ready to let your kid have their own smartphone or tablet, and have some conversations with them ahead of time about what they’ll use it for and how often. Some parents make a contract with their kids. If you do this, check in regularly to see what your child is doing and address any violations to your agreement in a timely manner. If you remember that it’s probably a matter of when, not if, they break one of the rules, you’ll be able to keep a calmer head when that time comes. 

Educate about cyberbullying

No one wants their kid to be bullied, online or off, and what’s more, no parent wants to find out their kid is bullying someone else. Before screens, the rules could be learned in social settings and at school. But with the relative lack of oversight and anonymity digital tools offer, it’s easier for kids (and adults, for that matter) to be mean to each other. Have a direct conversation with your children about what cyberbullying is and how to respond if it happens to them or they witness it. Hint: It’s better to respond and seek resolution in person than online. 

Use video chat

It’s no secret that sitting in front of a screen for hours on end isn’t the best for kids. But do we really know just what the effects of screen time on developing brains are, especially on young children? A review of various studies out there found that there are cognitive costs to too much screen time, but certain uses, such as video chatting with relatives, can be more helpful than harmful. Video chatting allows for a true conversation that includes nonverbal communication and can help support relationships with people who may not live nearby. 

Be a good role model

It’s not just our kids who need a healthy relationship with tech—we do too. The first thing to do if you want your kids to spend less time on screens is to set a good example by putting away your own devices more. Don’t want them to have phones at the dinner table? You better not either. And not only that, but talk with your kids about what you do on the computer and why. Engage them in conversations about the benefits and drawbacks of Instagram or online gaming. Be thoughtful in your own habits of picking up and putting down the phone. Even when you’re not discussing it with your children, they’ll notice what you do. 

Watch media as a family

Sharing media can certainly include movie night, but you might also consider viewing TED Talks or YouTube videos, or listening to podcasts with your kids. Kids use digital tools in their homework and to learn about the world, so encourage that behavior by consuming educational media with them. Here are a few TED Talk suggestions to get you started. By making this an activity you do together, you’ll contribute to family bonding. 

Maintain tech-free zones

Make sure you create time that doesn’t involve screens. The dinner table, an outing to the park, or the drive to/from school are all good options. This goes back to the idea of balance. When you allow kids time to connect with their friends online as well as take them out into nature, for example, they learn to appreciate the various ways they can interact with others. Rather than simply telling them to put down their devices, take them out and show them what the world has to offer.

Respect social media

Much of the concern about digital has to do with how much time kids spend on social media. And while there’s lots of grousing about the risks of social media, we sometimes overlook its benefits. Sites like Instagram and Twitter can help kids stay connected with friends and discover new interests. For LGBTQ kids or others with marginalized identities, digital platforms can offer a way (and sometimes the only way) to find community. Have conversations with your kids about what they’re doing on social media and make sure they understand that what they share online never really goes away. Keep track of who they’re connecting with, so you can find out early if a questionable stranger is interacting with your child. 

Keep the conversation going

Remember that contract mentioned earlier about tech use? Don’t treat it as a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing, but something you discuss regularly—there’s a better chance of it working that way. In order to not let the digital world distract your child from the physical world, make it part of your regular conversations rather than just bringing it up when something might be going wrong.

Part of raising healthy children in our digital world, continually be curious about what your child does on the computer and why. Ask to see the pictures they’re looking at on Instagram. And discuss with your child why everything they see on the Internet isn’t always as it appears. Just as with advertising in the old days, curated online personalities can produce insecurity around not living up to impossible standards. Help your children understand that what they see online isn’t necessarily a reflection of reality.

By Morgen Henderson

What Would the ‘Future You’ Post?

future social media posts for kids safety

Adults tell you all the time: “Be careful what you post on social media! The Internet is forever!” Teachers say: “When you apply for college, the school might reject you because of all those pictures and mean posts.”

You hear over and over: “People who hire employees will read your history and you might not get the job you want.” You smile, nod, then roll your eyes. Who cares about what happens in five, ten or twenty years?

Someone just made a post that makes you angry—you feel that you must post some angry comment back. You take a picture of yourself drawing a rude image on a neighbor’s fence and snicker as you upload it to your page.

Stop. Take your fingers off your phone or keyboard. What you are told is true. The Internet saves everything you do today. People can see all your posts five, ten and even twenty years from now. People have lost jobs for postings made years before.

If you want to be, say, the boss of a company or a famous dancer or a doctor or mayor of a city, think about that when you post online. A firefighter’s job is to face danger and save lives—would someone like that make mean posts to a little kid?

Would a great engineer type hurtful words to a person who is different from him or her?  Maybe you won’t become a great engineer if you can’t get into college because of mean comments posted when you were a kid.

Think about what you want to be. Imagine reaching your goals. You could dream of being an athlete, a pop star, a carpenter, a zoologist—whatever it is, think about how The Future You would act online. What would a nurse post when a person talks about being in pain?

What would a great world leader do when he or she sees someone being bullied online? If you act like the person you want to grow up to be, you’ll be on the road to being that person.

Now, look at your social media platforms.

Think about what a firefighter would say to the comments you see online. You have a long way to go before you can join a team of firefighters, but your journey can start when you act smart and strong online. It’s like having a firefighter writing your posts!

Adults tell you all the time: “Be careful what you post on social media! The Internet is forever!” Teachers say: “When you apply for college, the school might reject you because of all those pictures and mean posts.”

You hear over and over: “People who hire employees will read your history and you might not get the job you want.” You smile, nod, then roll your eyes. Who cares about what happens in five, ten or twenty years?

Someone just made a post that makes you angry—you feel that you must post some angry comment back. You take a picture of yourself drawing a rude image on a neighbor’s fence and snicker as you upload it to your page.

Stop. Take your fingers off your phone or keyboard. What you are told is true. The Internet saves everything you do today. People can see all your posts five, ten and even twenty years from now. People have lost jobs for postings made years before.

If you want to be, say, the boss of a company or a famous dancer or a doctor or mayor of a city, think about that when you post online. A firefighter’s job is to face danger and save lives—would someone like that make mean posts to a little kid?

Would a great engineer type hurtful words to a person who is different from him or her?  Maybe you won’t become a great engineer if you can’t get into college because of mean comments posted when you were a kid.

Think about what you want to be. Imagine reaching your goals. You could dream of being an athlete, a pop star, a carpenter, a zoologist—whatever it is, think about how The Future You would act online. What would a nurse post when a person talks about being in pain?

What would a great world leader do when he or she sees someone being bullied online? If you act like the person you want to grow up to be, you’ll be on the road to being that person.

Now, look at your social media platforms.

Think about what a firefighter would say to the comments you see online. You have a long way to go before you can join a team of firefighters, but your journey can start when you act smart and strong online. It’s like having a firefighter writing your posts!

When Friends are Upset on Social Media

Jill knows that Ringo — her fluffy spotted puppy — can understand her. Whenever she’s on her phone, Ringo sits politely at her feet and stares at her with round, brown eyes. Today, Jill read her social media posts to him. “Look,” she said, “Zazza is mad at Sam because he got into the school band and she didn’t”.

Jill continued. “Zazza said Sam got in because he gave the teacher a flower before auditions. They’re both my friends and I don’t know what to say.”

Ringo cocked his head and sniffed at the phone.

Jill sighed. “I know what you mean, Ringo. They’re both my friends. If I post something that makes Zazza feel good, it will make Sam mad. If I post something that makes Sam happy, Zazza will be upset. What should I do?”

Ringo flattened on the floor and covered his ears with his fuzzy white paws.

Jill crossed her arms.  “You really think I should just stay out of it?”

Ringo sat up and panted.

“You’re right. Zazza is hurt right now, but she does so much, she’ll forget about it in a few days. Maybe I should wait ‘til I see her in person and tell her I’m sorry she didn’t get on the band.”

Ringo’s tail started sweeping the floor.

“You like that idea? That way, Zazza will l know I care and I won’t make Sam mad. After all, he’s my friend, too.”

Ringo let his long tongue flop out of the side of his mouth. Then he gave a deep, strong, “Woof.”

Jill nodded. “You’re smart. If I post something online, it will look like I’m taking sides between two people I like. If I talk to them in person, I’ll be a real friend instead of just someone who on comments online.”

Ringo panted happily. He liked people when they talked to each other in person. Being a dog, he knew that real friends share real time in the real world.

Online friends can’t throw sticks for you. They can’t sneak you a pizza crust when parents aren’t looking. Online friends can’t scratch your ears or take you for a walk. They can’t hug you or fill your water bowl. That’s why Ringo knows that what happens online is only part of being a friend. Being a real friend means being supportive in the real world and being kind in the real world.

Jill got off social media and phoned Sam. She congratulated him for getting on the band. Then she called Zazza and invited her over for pizza night.

That’s when Jill’s phone beeped. She looked at the message. “This is your Mom. Didn’t you forget something else in the real world?”

Jill smiled and tossed down her phone. “Hey, Mom,” she yelled into the kitchen. “Is it okay if Zazza comes over for pizza?”

Jill knows that Ringo — her fluffy spotted puppy — can understand her. Whenever she’s on her phone, Ringo sits politely at her feet and stares at her with round, brown eyes. Today, Jill read her social media posts to him. “Look,” she said, “Zazza is mad at Sam because he got into the school band and she didn’t”.

Jill continued. “Zazza said Sam got in because he gave the teacher a flower before auditions. They’re both my friends and I don’t know what to say.”

Ringo cocked his head and sniffed at the phone.

Jill sighed. “I know what you mean, Ringo. They’re both my friends. If I post something that makes Zazza feel good, it will make Sam mad. If I post something that makes Sam happy, Zazza will be upset. What should I do?”

Ringo flattened on the floor and covered his ears with his fuzzy white paws.

Jill crossed her arms.  “You really think I should just stay out of it?”

Ringo sat up and panted.

“You’re right. Zazza is hurt right now, but she does so much, she’ll forget about it in a few days. Maybe I should wait ‘til I see her in person and tell her I’m sorry she didn’t get on the band.”

Ringo’s tail started sweeping the floor.

“You like that idea? That way, Zazza will l know I care and I won’t make Sam mad. After all, he’s my friend, too.”

Ringo let his long tongue flop out of the side of his mouth. Then he gave a deep, strong, “Woof.”

Jill nodded. “You’re smart. If I post something online, it will look like I’m taking sides between two people I like. If I talk to them in person, I’ll be a real friend instead of just someone who on comments online.”

Ringo panted happily. He liked people when they talked to each other in person. Being a dog, he knew that real friends share real time in the real world.

Online friends can’t throw sticks for you. They can’t sneak you a pizza crust when parents aren’t looking. Online friends can’t scratch your ears or take you for a walk. They can’t hug you or fill your water bowl. That’s why Ringo knows that what happens online is only part of being a friend. Being a real friend means being supportive in the real world and being kind in the real world.

Jill got off social media and phoned Sam. She congratulated him for getting on the band. Then she called Zazza and invited her over for pizza night.

That’s when Jill’s phone beeped. She looked at the message. “This is your Mom. Didn’t you forget something else in the real world?”

Jill smiled and tossed down her phone. “Hey, Mom,” she yelled into the kitchen. “Is it okay if Zazza comes over for pizza?”

School Counselors Using Digital Tech for Safer Schools

school counselors digital technology safety

For decades, school administrators have worked to make school buildings safer. They have done so by locking doors, adding security systems and cameras, hiring law enforcement staff, and installing metal detectors.

Over 90% of schools in the U.S. have security cameras to help staff monitor the school and surrounding area more closely.  And, in 2016 alone, schools spent $2.7 billion on security systems. One year later, the amount spent almost doubled.

Besides video surveillance, almost 80% of schools track their visitors by asking them to sign into the front desk.

Sure, it’s essential to keep all the outside doors of a school locked and take note of who is in your building, but not all threats are face to face.  We live in a digital world.  And, a lot of your preventative maintenance needs to take place in that same cyber environment. 

So, when threats are made, schools need to right tools to spread the word to teachers and staff quickly. Here are some ideas you may want to try to keep your school safe.

Social Net Watcher

School shooters tend to be narcissists. They often use social media, especially Instagram, to proclaim their manifestos.

One start-up out of Indiana, Social Net Watcher, watches students’ social media accounts for specific phrases that may indicate warnings of violence. They can also be programmed to alert school officials to acts of cyberbullying.

TextMagic

In an emergency, fast communication is essential. TextMagic allows schools to send immediate texts to the staff, students, or parents at the touch of a button.

Texts are the most effective form of communication in an emergency. Teachers may not have access to their computers while they are barricaded in their classrooms.

TextMagic can also be used to alert parents if their children are not in attendance. Parents who may be concerned about the mental health of their children can be warned immediately that their child is not where he is supposed to be. 

Visitor Management System

While most schools have visitors sign in at the reception desk, some schools are taking this precaution to the next level.

Visitors at some schools must present their state or federal ID to the school. These IDs are checked against a national database of registered sex offenders.

Alertus Desktop

Although text messaging is the most effective form of communication during an emergency, at times, a back-up plan is needed. Alertus Desktop can send an immediate alert to every computer screen on campus. This system is particularly helpful for buildings that have notoriously bad cell coverage.

Take a look at what Gordon College learned by implementing Alertus Desktop.  The school felt that its checklist for notifications in emergency systems was too long.  And, It wanted one unified system for keeping people informed.  

The college reports that its decision to streamline communications was extremely beneficial.  “Being able to setup pre-scripted alerts to fire off with one button press or one-click during a crisis can help save lives during an emergency.”

Facial Recognition Software

Although there may be privacy concerns from using biometric data on a school campus, some districts are willing to overlook this opinion to keep their students safe. Programs such as RealNetworks is 98% accurate, and this software will alert school officials if someone of concern is on campus.

GPS Systems

Schools not only need to keep students safe on campus, but they also need to protect their students on buses as well. GPS systems are so sophisticated now that the district will be notified if a driver is reckless.

This software has the added benefit of protecting the school from parent complaints. If parents complain that the bus did not pick up their children that morning, the district can check the GPS to see whether or not the driver really missed the stop.

Edgewood Independent School District in Texas utilized this technology on its fleet of school buses. The system proved beneficial when the local sheriff was able to send the closest officer immediately to a driver who needed assistance.

Safety and Security Film

The doors of a school may be locked, but that doesn’t mean that school shooters can’t break into a building through a window. An American company now has made a thin film that can be placed over the windows of a school building to keep them from breaking.

Fortify the windows of your school with this 3M product. This product will enable responders to have more time to arrive in the event of an emergency.

Conclusion

Schools have the moral and legal responsibility to keep their students safe.

Even though some schools have metal detectors at the door, 7% of high schoolers reported being hurt or threatened with a weapon on school property within the last year.

Even though safety measures have been utilized, nearly 6% of high schoolers have reported that they stayed home from school because they did not feel safe.

What that means to you as an administrator at a school is you need to maximize your resources.  Explore these different options. Then, start to implement  some of these digital technologies and other strategies to keep your school safe.

For decades, school administrators have worked to make school buildings safer. They have done so by locking doors, adding security systems and cameras, hiring law enforcement staff, and installing metal detectors.

Over 90% of schools in the U.S. have security cameras to help staff monitor the school and surrounding area more closely.  And, in 2016 alone, schools spent $2.7 billion on security systems. One year later, the amount spent almost doubled.

Besides video surveillance, almost 80% of schools track their visitors by asking them to sign into the front desk.

Sure, it’s essential to keep all the outside doors of a school locked and take note of who is in your building, but not all threats are face to face.  We live in a digital world.  And, a lot of your preventative maintenance needs to take place in that same cyber environment. 

So, when threats are made, schools need to right tools to spread the word to teachers and staff quickly. Here are some ideas you may want to try to keep your school safe.

Social Net Watcher

School shooters tend to be narcissists. They often use social media, especially Instagram, to proclaim their manifestos.

One start-up out of Indiana, Social Net Watcher, watches students’ social media accounts for specific phrases that may indicate warnings of violence. They can also be programmed to alert school officials to acts of cyberbullying.

TextMagic

In an emergency, fast communication is essential. TextMagic allows schools to send immediate texts to the staff, students, or parents at the touch of a button.

Texts are the most effective form of communication in an emergency. Teachers may not have access to their computers while they are barricaded in their classrooms.

TextMagic can also be used to alert parents if their children are not in attendance. Parents who may be concerned about the mental health of their children can be warned immediately that their child is not where he is supposed to be. 

Visitor Management System

While most schools have visitors sign in at the reception desk, some schools are taking this precaution to the next level.

Visitors at some schools must present their state or federal ID to the school. These IDs are checked against a national database of registered sex offenders.

Alertus Desktop

Although text messaging is the most effective form of communication during an emergency, at times, a back-up plan is needed. Alertus Desktop can send an immediate alert to every computer screen on campus. This system is particularly helpful for buildings that have notoriously bad cell coverage.

Take a look at what Gordon College learned by implementing Alertus Desktop.  The school felt that its checklist for notifications in emergency systems was too long.  And, It wanted one unified system for keeping people informed.  

The college reports that its decision to streamline communications was extremely beneficial.  “Being able to setup pre-scripted alerts to fire off with one button press or one-click during a crisis can help save lives during an emergency.”

Facial Recognition Software

Although there may be privacy concerns from using biometric data on a school campus, some districts are willing to overlook this opinion to keep their students safe. Programs such as RealNetworks is 98% accurate, and this software will alert school officials if someone of concern is on campus.

GPS Systems

Schools not only need to keep students safe on campus, but they also need to protect their students on buses as well. GPS systems are so sophisticated now that the district will be notified if a driver is reckless.

This software has the added benefit of protecting the school from parent complaints. If parents complain that the bus did not pick up their children that morning, the district can check the GPS to see whether or not the driver really missed the stop.

Edgewood Independent School District in Texas utilized this technology on its fleet of school buses. The system proved beneficial when the local sheriff was able to send the closest officer immediately to a driver who needed assistance.

Safety and Security Film

The doors of a school may be locked, but that doesn’t mean that school shooters can’t break into a building through a window. An American company now has made a thin film that can be placed over the windows of a school building to keep them from breaking.

Fortify the windows of your school with this 3M product. This product will enable responders to have more time to arrive in the event of an emergency.

Conclusion

Schools have the moral and legal responsibility to keep their students safe.

Even though some schools have metal detectors at the door, 7% of high schoolers reported being hurt or threatened with a weapon on school property within the last year.

Even though safety measures have been utilized, nearly 6% of high schoolers have reported that they stayed home from school because they did not feel safe.

What that means to you as an administrator at a school is you need to maximize your resources.  Explore these different options. Then, start to implement  some of these digital technologies and other strategies to keep your school safe.