Online Safety for Children

As you know, one of the challenges of raising children today is helping them learn to use cell phones, computers, and other messaging devices responsibly. We are all acquainted with the recent headlines about students who have been harassed in cyberspace. It is not unusual for the reports about these incidents to lead to questions about the adults who were responsible for the children involved in these incidents. HCMS would like to partner with you to make sure that we adults are doing our part to make sure our children are safe using these messaging tools.

Recent legislation requires that NH schools address issues of bullying and harassment even if they originate from an electronic source outside of school and during the hours when children are not in school. This requirement is in place because the impact of this cyberbullying carries over to the children’s school experiences and can make school a hostile place.

Students may think that the school has no business getting involved when they write hurtful messages to another student from home in the evening from their own personal device. That is not the case. The state now requires schools to do what it can to stop the cyberbullying that is reported to us. Currently the HCMS administration is working with the administrators from the other schools in SAU 23 to develop its procedures for responding to incidents of cyberbullying under the requirements of this new legislation.

Why are adults allowing young children to use social networking sites?

Facebook and other social networking sites were developed to allow individuals to connect with each other personally and professionally. They allow families separated by long distances to keep in touch. They allow communication and sharing that could never have been imagined even just a few years ago.

Yet for all of their advantages, even the companies who run these sites know that it is dangerous for young children to use their services. Most of these social networking sites have policies that restrict the use of their services to persons who are at least 13 years old. If your child is not yet 13, HCMS strongly recommends that you do not permit him or her to create an account on one of these social networking sites. If he or she already has an account, the school strongly encourages you to delete it.

Facebook’s age limit policy is reprinted below:

“Facebook requires individuals to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account. In some jurisdictions, the age limit may be higher. Providing false information to create an account is always a violation of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This includes accounts registered on the behalf of under 13 year old children by older parties.”

What more can we do to help keep our children safe online?

Those of you with children who have turned 13 already know that you cannot simply turn them loose in the world of online social networking without any direction. Those of you who set limits on the amount of time your children spend on these sites are doing the right thing. Those of you who take the time to check the content of your child’s interactions are taking necessary steps to ensure that your child is safe online.

However, keeping up with potential online dangers for children can be difficult. The landscape of this virtual world changes rapidly and incidents can quickly snowball out of control.

Additional Resources

Posted below is a Family Internet Safety Contract, developed by the office of the NH Attorney General. This office’s website has additional resources about internet safety that parents may find useful.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has an extensive online resource to help parents keep their children safe online.