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Pair offer tips for parents on social media safety

Trish Abraham has two children in the Central Valley School District. She said that neither has a cellphone or social media accounts yet.

“They’re going to want those things,” she said.

To help prepare herself for what is coming with her children, she went to “Tweet, Tag, Post and Share – Mysteries of our Children’s Online Lives Revealed,” a seminar on Internet safety at Liberty Lake Elementary School on Wednesday for parents.

Brent Howard, technology integration specialist, and Kara Twining, a counselor at University High School, talked about what programs and applications they are seeing students use today – with a disclaimer that the trends change all the time.

Twining said she became interested in learning about what students are doing in social media a couple of years ago when one high school student posted something embarrassing on another student’s Facebook page. Twining said when she was that age, when something embarrassing happened to her, she felt like everyone knew about it, but it was just really everyone sitting at her lunch table.

“Now when they say everybody knows, it’s thousands of people,” she told parents.

She brought the student into her office and looked at her Facebook page. There were 384 friend requests from people she didn’t know. There were comments all over her page. When Twining brought the student back to class, she said it was like a movie. All the students were looking and pointing.

Twining noted that Facebook has recently seen a decline in activity from teens. She said parents have done the right thing: joined Facebook themselves and friended their children. She compared this to a parent crashing a slumber party.

“Chances are they’re having conversations in other places,” she said.

A Pew Research Center study showed 78 percent of students have cellphones, Howard said. Of those, 47 percent of them have smartphones, which is how many access social media sites.

They didn’t recommend keeping children off these sites. Instead, they said start elementary age children out in a safe environment such as Disney’s Club Penguin and have open discussions about it. Using that app, they can’t give their real name or how old they are. If another user uses a seemingly innocent word such as “butt,” other users can “doom them out of the Penguin world.”

Once kids are older, they are introduced to any number of applications. Howard discussed Instagram and how users use hashtags to search for other users. For example, some kids post a photo and include “#awesome.”

“Can you imagine the variety of photos that are ‘hashtag awesome’?” Twining asked.

Twining talked about “branding” and how teens should try to give themselves a positive brand when posting photos.

Howard pulled up a popular meme that went around the Internet during football season. It compared Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his pictures of him visiting the Seattle Children’s Hospital and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s photos of him hanging out with his friends and lifting weights.

Twining said teens should post photos of themselves doing good in the community, because employers often Google applicants to see what they do online, and can go back about seven years.

“It’s what you can do to put yourself above other applicants,” Howard said.

The two talked about Vine, Snapchat, Kik and

Using the app, students can post their name and information and people ask them questions. If the user answers any of the questions, those posts are there permanently. Twining said this app was “100 percent non-private.”

Howard said he can find something positive about most social media sites.

“I can’t think about anything good about,” he said.

The two stressed that kids do a lot of good online and stressed that parents shouldn’t try to keep kids away from it. It’s better to teach your children to play in that world safely. Have conversations with them about what applications they use and what they are posting.