In the wake of the latest school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., parents around the country are struggling with feelings of helplessness and are searching desperately for ways to protect their kids at school. While we may not be able to change the root causes of this epidemic overnight, there are things parents can do now that will have an immediate impact.
To help put parents and their kids in lockstep so they can be savvy and prepared in case a school crisis occurs, the nonprofit Center for Cyber Safety and Education offers these tips and tools that can help families be ACTIVE – not just reactive – in their schools and communities.
- Host a weekly family “Tweet-Up.” Use the time to discuss your kids’ concerns, how they feel about safety at their school, what they’re hearing about school shootings and to brainstorm how they can do their part to prevent school violence and protect themselves and each other.
- Be vigilant. Many school shooters have posted their intentions on social media. If you or your child sees a threat-based post, take it seriously, and report it immediately. Even if you know the student and are surprised by the content and that he/she posted it, report it. Leave it to authorities to investigate.
- Make sure your kids know that if they post a threat on social media, even as a joke, there will likely be severe consequences. In the current environment, law enforcement officials are taking every threat seriously and will hold people accountable for what they post.
- Monitor your kids’ social media presence and activity. They may not like it, but it’s a privilege to own smartphones and tablets, and it’s your obligation as their guardian to make sure they’re using them responsibly and to keep them safe.
- Set up a password vault for your children’s social media account passwords. Services like Last Pass, 1Password, and KeePass are free or inexpensive and all offer phone, computer, and browser-based access. Show your kids that you respect their privacy by asking everyone in the family to sign a household contract that you will only access their accounts in case of an emergency.
- Find out what your school’s policy and protocol are for active shooter response. If allowed, establish a family protocol that includes a place to meet outside the school in the event of an emergency. If they’re allowed to keep their phone during school, they can send you a message through text or Facebook Messenger with a word you agree upon, which will signal to both of you that there’s been an incident and that you’re headed to the meeting place.
- Vet social media groups and only join those where they feel comfortable with the discussion. If they see any pictures/posts that make them uneasy, report them to authorities.
- Remind your kids that what they say online never goes away, even if they delete it. Many police departments around the country are actively tracking what people post on social media, and that tracking may increase. If your child posts something suspicious, their post could attract the attention of local law enforcement.
- In many cases, school shooters turn out to have been victims of bullying. If you suspect your child is being bullied online or in real life or both, learn the signs and report the activity to authorities immediately.
- Use social media for good, not to make things worse. Share positive posts and images that educate rather than shame. Use it to connect with students who may be struggling. Send them positive messages that show kindness and understanding.
About the Center for Cyber Safety and Education
The Center, a pioneering non-profit committed to making the cyber world a safer place for everyone, works to ensure that people across the globe have a positive and safe experience online through its educational programs, scholarships, and research.