Mission Viejo, your kids and teens are online more than ever.
The screen of their smartphone, smartpad or laptop casts a moonlight-like luster onto your childrens' faces more than seven and a half hours a day, according to a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And because they often use multiple entertainment devices at once, American kids ages 8 to 18 actually pack nearly 11 hours of content into that 7-and-a-half-hour window, the study found.
With the introduction of new devices like the iPad, the widespread availability of the iPhone, and a decreased selection of plain old phones that were made to just make phone calls, that number has likely increased.
But what exactly are your children doing on their devices during all those hours?
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department recently hosted an Internet safety forum in the aftermath of a deadly Ladera Ranch rampage shooting that left six shot and four dead. The dead included the attacker, a 20-year-old Saddleback College student detectives described as a loner who spent most of his ample free time playing video games.
Held at Don Juan Avila Middle School in Aliso Viejo, the forum, which was off-limits to students and children, was designed to inform and facilitate dialogue between parents and law enforcement officials about what children are doing online and how parents can hold greater sway in their children’s online life.
During the presentation, a representative from the Sheriff’s Department’s High Tech Services Reserve Unit led a talk that touched on topics that ranged from monitoring children’s time on the web to creating open discourse with teens and adolescents about who they’re talking to online.
One father complained his 12-year-old daughter had racked up a huge cell phone bill with 7,000 text messages and a mere nine minutes of phone calls. The Sheriff’s representative responded, "Wow, your kid must be sleeping!" saying 7,000 was on the low end of text exchanges.
How can one preteen rack up thousands of text messages? All roads lead back to the Internet, in this case through Twitter. With Twitter, members are able to receive tweets on their cell phones from whoever they follow on the micro-blogging site. (Sign up for Mission Viejo Patch alerts on Twitter here.)
The representative encouraged the parents if they see that their child is exchanging a lot of text messages to ask their kids who they are texting.
Here are more tips from the OCSD about specific websites:
- Ensure that your children are promoting themselves in a positive way since future employers and college admissions representatives may look at their profile.
- If your child is middle-school-aged or younger, it’s wise to friend them on Facebook and monitor their activity.
- Be sure to monitor and keep up with Facebook’s evolving privacy laws as they change from time to time.
- A form of social networking where users can post anonymous questions and comments to other users.
- Most of the comments that the High Tech Service Reserve Unit has seen were "vicious."
- An app available on iPhones and iPads that allows users to send photos to each other that disappear at a set interval that ranges from 1 to 10 seconds.
- The Reserve Unit representative spoke on the decreased inhibitions exhibited by users since the photos disappear after a set amount of time.
- However, users are able to take a screenshot with their iPhone and save the photos and share them via email and text message.
- A message board-based website where users can post messages and photos and create Internet memes.
- The Reserve Unit has frequently encountered middles school students requesting 4chan users to photoshop images of friends and others into sexually explicit images.
- An app available on mobile devices that allows users to follow other users and add them to their “rolling wall of photos” on their device.
- Photos can be screen-shotted and sent to others via email or text message.
Although parents can’t monitor every move that their children make online, the Reserve Unit representative repeatedly encouraged parents to conduct their own research to decide what websites they want their children visiting.