Parry Aftab, cyberspace lawyer and internet safety expert, addressed parents of 7th-12th graders on Wednesday, November 1st at Westminster, and parents of K-6th grade students on Thursday, November 2nd. Entertaining, engaging, and passionate, Aftab encouraged parents to dialogue with their students and pledge to "be the parent." "While kids know more about technology, parents know more about life," Aftab emphasized.

What she said to parents:

One of the greatest dangers is letting our fear and lack of knowledge cause us to overreact. Kids won't talk to us, share their concerns, open their buddy profiles to us if they think we're going to freak out. "They're afraid you're going to take it away," Aftab said.

So, what are we to do as parents?

1. Take inventory of the technology in your home

What do you have?
Cell Phones
Game Consoles (Xbox, Playstations)
MP3 Players

Can you communicate? What information gets shared? Who do nyou communicate with? (Example: Xbox 360 is online with strangers)

Research new technology before you buy it: know how it can be used and abused.

2. Set Your Rules

Computer in central location? What about wireless? When can you use cell phones? How long on computer, for what purposes? What should go on the buddy profile, or on the social networking profile? What is APPROPRIATE?

3. Enforce Your Rules

Unplug, more monitoring, limited use--what are your consequences?

4. Filter Between the Ears, not just with Technology

What are your family values?
Follow the Golden Rule: don't do anything online that you wouldn't do offline
What is your Netiquette? (Do not steal info, do not bully)
Encourage student to have an online buddy-checkpoint to review posts before sending
Encourage student to "Think b4UClick"
Discuss "Take 5"--encourage student to take five minutes to do something relaxing and away from the computer before replying to a difficult email or AIM message.

Class Project Example:
Check out what a group of 5th graders said they would do when they "Take 5" -

5. Monitor

Install SpecterSoft or other monitoring software but only as a recorder to be used when there is a problem. Don't put it in stealth mode unless you've got a reason.

Ask your child to show you their buddy lists and what they've posted online. Give them a 24 hour warning (yes, they'll remove what they don't want you to see but now they know you're going to be looking).

6. Give your child a hug

Being a parent means loving and supporting your child. The Internet can be a scary place for them at times, and over 85% of our students have been cyberbullied. What is cyberbullying? Saying mean things, stealing passwords, blackmail, posting names on a website, stealing identities. Kids often do not tell their parents-important to listen to our kids and know when they are hurting others, or when they've been burt. Biggest risk for cyberbullying: 4th-7th grade.

Check out Parry's interview with 11 Alive

Download Parry's handouts