TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for schools to be handing a kindergartener technology on the first day of school. But with a new age of learning comes added safety risks parents should be warning their children about.
“We start early, this is a technological age that is moving faster than the adults sometimes want to admit it, so we have to have these conversations, starting as young as four and five,” Mark Laurrie, Superintendent of Niagara Falls City School District, said.
“When I started here not all students had a device to use within the classroom, sometimes they were shared amongst classrooms and now every room has a laptop cart, as well as the ‘Come to Technology’ class twice a week, to learn how to use the computers appropriately and use various programs,” Dana Comas-Baez, a Technology Integration Specialist at Charter Schools for Applied Technologies, said.
Comas-Baez is starting her eighth year at the school and said it’s important for students to know how to be safe online, and to know what the potential risks are.
“The amount of time they spend on devices is increasing so much between school and home, and it seems like everything connects to the internet one way or another, including their gaming devices as home,” Comas Baez said. “It’s important for them to know how to be safe online and what are potential risks for them while they’re online, so they can have a more positive experience online.”
“We read far too frequently about child trafficking, we read far too frequently about kids getting caught on illegal websites with sexual predators, that if we don’t as parents step up and get involved and want to know, want to have passwords, and have periodic checks then we’re not going to make a dent in these kind of problems,” Laurrie said.
Comas-Daez said cyberbullying, online predators and private information being shared are all risks that children should know about, and encourages parents to look for signs in their behavior.
“Keeping an eye on their actions and their behaviors while they’re online, and if they’re getting frustrated, they’re getting mad, be open with them, talk to them, let them know that they can come to them or a trusted adult that can help,” Comas-Baez said. “Check their profile, check their posts and comments to see what’s happening so that they can be aware.”
She also encourages parents to have a discussion on what type of information is okay to share online, and what is not. She said to never have children share their location online, including where they are, their home address, their school, or their parents’ information as it could be used to lure children.
“To let kids know that when somebody is asking these questions, you need to be careful, you don’t know who is on that other side, it could be an adult, it might be a kid, but we always need to error on the side of caution,” Comas-Baez said.
She shared some of the resources they use to teach their students ways to be internet cautious. One website teaches children about these risks through games and can be found here. She also suggested parents visit Netsmartz and Common Sense Media to learn more about the risks, and to talk to their children about them.