Students’ use of social media eyed

Photo by Peyton Neely Patrick Ward discusses the effects of technology on children during a free informational talk at Harmar Elementary School.

MARIETTA — Parents and educators joined together at Harmar Elementary School Tuesday night for a free informational talk about children’s use of media.

“Not just social media but technology all together has changed drastically since we were young,” said parent Dave Miller, 32, of Marietta. “This is something we didn’t have to deal with when we were little and now social media is incorporated in everyday lives of kids.”

Miller, along with several other parents and teachers, listened to the advice Patrick Ward, a family therapist from Parkersburg, had to share about any concerns they had with social media.

“I know from first-hand experience that this is a growing problem,” said Ward, who is also a parent himself. “This is really the first generation of parents that has to figure out how to manage media every day.”

Ward shared with the group tips on how to address the social media issue among children ages 10 through 14.

“One way is to keep an eye on the amount of time your child spends on their electronics,” he said.

According to the Social Media Survey in 2016, 93 percent of teens ages 12 to17 go online, 69 percent of teens have their own computer, 63 percent of teen Internet users go online every day, 27 percent of teens use their phone to get online and 24 percent of teens with a game console use it to go online.

“Not knowing the people they can come into contact with is really scary,” said Karita Miller, 32, of Marietta.

Karita is the parent advocate in the Parent Teacher Partnership Group at Harmar. Kindergarten teacher Alison Woods works with Karita to keep the communication between parents and educators strong.

“We open communications for parents, schools and communities,” said Karita. “When we asked parents what different concerns they have, social media was a big one (along with) ways to protect our children.”

Woods said along with the students she teaches in the classroom, she fears for her own son’s safety.

“I’m just trying to protect them by teaching them the right way to use media,” she said. “Bullying is becoming a huge problem.”

Ward said he came up with a practical strategy in order to share ways to prevent the problems parents fear. He shared with the group a cell phone contract that allows the parents to have transparency with what goes through their child’s phone, identifying protected zones in the household that exclude any screens, conditions for use of all media outlets and consequences for violations.

“Kids aren’t even supposed to have Facebook if they’re under the age of 13,” said Ward.

Experts say If your child is being cyberbullied, teach them to not respond, to keep a copy of all the messages and to report it to the school or website. If the messages include threats, report this to the police. If you report the cyberbullying to the school, be sure to follow up in person and ask for a written plan on how the school will respond to the problem.

“The last couple of years people have really been waking up to this,” Ward said. “Social media is a whole new thing parents have to figure out how to manage.”