The saying “times have changed” is as cliched as sayings get; parents have probably been muttering that adage dating all the way back to the Stone Age.
But in this era filled with high tech tools like smart phones, social media and instant messaging, the times are literally changing before many adults even know they’ve arrived.
In order to help the less tech savvy parents in the area become more plugged in to what their kids are up to, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Kelley has put together a seminar called “Social Media and Your Kids”, a roughly 90-minute class that outlines what parents need to know when it comes to what their teens are doing on the Internet.
Last week, Dept. Kelley brought his seminar to Countryside High School, where a small group of parents gathered, hoping to learn more about their kids’ social media habits.
“Four years ago we put together a project called Internet Safety,” Dept. Kelley told Safety Harbor Connect. “That evolved, and now it has become more social media focused.”
“The main goal of the class is to get parents involved, because parents tend to give excuses as to why they’re not more involved.”
According to Kelley, getting involved means a variety of things, from knowing all the logins and passwords of your kids’ accounts to physically taking their phones and laptops from them for hours or days in order to monitor their conversations and websites visited.
Kelley said today’s teens’ social network extends far beyond Facebook and Twitter; he estimates there are 10-12 important apps and sites that parents need to be aware of.
“On Snapchat, the photo disappears after 10 seconds, but viewers can grab a screen shot of a potentially offensive image. Vine allows users to upload 6-second videos; they’re supposed to be 17 to register, but that’s not always the case,” Kelley explained.
“And Ask.fm is a site that allows people to pose questions to each other. It has been linked to cases of cyber bullying and teen suicide.”
Safety Harbor resident Cristine Kreplick attended Kelley’s class at Countryside High.
She said she had been thinking of starting something similar herself based on her own experiences with parents and social media, and she appreciated the school and the PCSO for putting the seminar together.
“The class was very good, very informative,” Kreplick said. “Many of the parents were naive at the beginning, saying, ‘oh no, that’s not my kid’. But by the end they were convinced they needed to be more aware of what their kids are doing online.”
Kelley only had three social media seminars scheduled on this most recent run – in addition to the Countryside class there was one at Morgan Fitzgerald Elementary on Nov. 11 and another scheduled for Nov. 18 at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport.
He said he would love to have more schools, churches and youth organizations contact him to speak at their own events. And he hopes the attendance increases to include hundreds of parents.
“Every parent needs to be aware of these things,” he said.
But Kreplick wants to take Kelley’s plan one step further.
“I would like to see it applied to drug and alcohol abuse, also, and I think they should be mandatory for all high school and middle school parents,” she said. “Because once something starts to trend, it’s too late to stop.”
For more information on Dept. Thomas Kelley’s “Social Media and Your Kids” seminar, contact him at 727-582-6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.