Many parents reading this will not have grown up with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. Social media was not part of our lives when we were in our teens and if you are around my age (a weather beaten 41!!) then mobile phones were not around much either except maybe for the early “brick” versions which needed a suitcase to carry. We were never taught how to use social media, it just happened and we didn’t realise how global a particular comment or photo could go in a matter of minutes. For many of us it was frightening, still is frightening and we treat it with nervous apprehension. For our kids however, this is a different story altogether. They HAVE grown up with it; this is their form of communication and it is part of their lives. Many of you will see your child sitting on the couch using not just one device like a mobile but using two or three devices all at the same time, having numerous separate conversations with different groups of people. This may seem like a different world to us but its their world and like every generation, parents won’t understand what their kids are doing or why they are doing it.
We all know the dangers of social media, we hear it every day on the radio with frightening stories of grooming, predators, impersonation and cyber-bullying. Often adults and not kids are the worst culprits….why? because they were never shown what is acceptable behaviour and there are no consequences to their actions. Children are going on social media at a younger and younger age and this age limit will only further decrease with time despite parents attempts to keep them sheltered from it. They are already using games with social media interaction which are classified as “child friendly”. Having worked in this sector now for four years and written four educational books which are used in schools at primary and secondary level, I know that the only way of changing the negative behaviour which currently exists online is by instigating a generational shift in behaviour. There is only one way to do this – teach your children how to behave online in schools on a safe network which not only positively conditions behaviour but in a practical sense teaches them manners for online use. Routine becomes habit and we all know how difficult it is to break a habit. If our kids are taught in a practical way from a young age i.e how to protect themselves and safeguard their identity, to be aware of how what they say could be taken up in a negative way by someone else, to report negative comments immediately, to treat others with respect then this way of behaving becomes the norm through repetition. Then this generation of online users will behave in a completely different way than the generation before because they know no other way than the way they have been taught and therein lies the difference.
That is why we built www.cybersmarties.com.
It is a new way of thinking because it has to be as nothing anyone has tried before has worked. I’m not going to rabbit on about how great it is but all I will say is that it took two and a half years to get the behavioural technology right, it has been tested with fantastic results and it works. If you are a parent who is afraid of what your child in primary school is going to do when they go on social media, don’t bury your head in the sand and hope the problems disappears – prepare them for what lies ahead by getting your school to use Cybersmarties.com. Having someone come to your school to teach parents, teachers and kids about cybersafety has of course its merits in raising awareness and I fully endorse it but you won’t learn much in one day. Like any subject, it is the act of repetition which reinforces learning and habit and you cannot learn about computers out of a book. You will only learn computers on a computer, you will only learn online behaviour on an online educational behavioural platform. In simple terms, this is why you have a theory test and a practical test before you pass your driving test. The same applies to online behaviour and safety….you must gain your experience in a safe educational practical environment.