Parents assist children with online safety

Kendall McGowan, Managing News Editor

by Kendall McGowan

Students cooperate with their parents as they approach the increasingly difficult task of keeping their childrens’ online interactions safe and constructive.

Freshman Bridget McMahon, who is friends with her mother on Facebook, is comfortable with her relationship online with her parents.

“They want to make sure I’m doing the right thing and using the internet appropriately,” she said. “It’s fine. I let them be my friends.”

Sophomore Horizon Starwood keeps her posts on Instagram inoffensive, but not just because her mother regularly looks at her account.

“If my parents won’t like it, then probably my dream college will see it and not like it, so why would I post something like that?” Starwood said.

Sophomore Ryan Cook also sees his parents’ monitoring of his Facebook account as an effort to prevent him from posting anything that would spoil his chances of getting into a desirable college.

“If I’m saying stuff pertaining to my privacy– for example, giving away something that’s going to compromise a future college, it makes sense for them to monitor that,” Cook said. “I can see where they’re coming from.”

Although guidance counselor Richard Gorman has never worked with students facing the problem of being denied admittance to a college based on what admissions officers find online, he says it is a real problem. According to Gorman, a student’s best approach to all online interactions is to stay true to their character.

“They want to make sure that their character is intact and that the true individual that they are is not coming off in a different light,” Gorman said.

While working with their parents has helped some students achieve safety and fulfillment online, others feel that their parents go too far when trying to keep them safe. Freshman Ruby Kennedy said she has gone through the unpleasant experience of having her parents read her text messages.

“I don’t really text anything inappropriate, so I wasn’t that angry, but they were my texts,” Kennedy said. “It was annoying, and I didn’t like it very much.”

According to junior Michael Hemingway, parents’ efforts to check on their children online can be an invasion of privacy.

“Some parents are keeping their kids safe, but some are nosy,” he said.

Gorman said privacy is a real issue in online interactions between parents and their kids.

“I think they feel like they just want to make sure that their parents are being respectful of some of their privacy, and I think everyone’s entitled to some of that,” Gorman said.

Cook said he earns his parents’ trust by conceding some of his privacy to them on Facebook.

“There’s a certain amount of trust that goes into it, and if I’m friends with them it just reinforces that I’m a good person, so they trust me,” Cook said.

According to Gorman, trust needs to be mutual for online relationships to be beneficial to families.

“If you trust your kid, and you know where they’re going and you know the people they’re hanging out with, then you should feel at ease,” Gorman said. “Also, parents should communicate with their students about what they’re doing so it shouldn’t be a surprise.”

In the end, no matter how protective or laid-back, all parents should be willing to talk freely with their children about what measures they’re taking to support them online, Gorman said.

“At a minimum, you have to have conversations with your kid,” Gorman said. “That’s what a minimum is, kind of stepping back from the aspect of technology and having conversations face to face with your kid about what your expectations are and what you’re going to do and why you’re doing it.”

Kendall McGowan can be contacted at [email protected]