The other night, we had to attend a meeting regarding appropriate computer and internet usage so my son could receive his school laptop. Call me old fashioned, but I was appalled at the number of teens who were texting during the presentation. The lack of respect given to the speaker and the content of the presentation was unnerving. One girl, sitting directly in front of me, was texting on two devices at the same time. As soon as she finished with one, she picked up the other one. During the entire half-hour presentation, there was not a minute that she was not texting. And what she was texting was not nice. (Yes, I looked!)
Here is a comprehensive list for Montessori parents, to help you understand how to avoid and deal with cyber bullying.
Lessons in Montessori Grace and Courtesy: Parent Tips for Cyber Bullying
- Talk to your children about what they are doing online. Just as you ask them about their day or their friends, talk to them about their usage of the internet and cell phone.
- Know who your children are communicating with. We would never allow our children to talk to strangers in the park and strangers online should be treated in much the same way. Get to know about their chat and gaming friends and what they are talking about.
- Make sure they understand the long and short term consequences of inappropriate behavior.
- Consider limiting and monitoring electronic communication. I know my 14 year old must think I’m totally behind the times, but up until this spring, he didn't even have his own email address. He still does not have a cell phone and probably will not until he starts driving. All computer usage takes place at the dining room table where I can casually walk by and check and see what he’s doing. This is all part of our ongoing parent/child communication. He knows any inappropriate usage will severely limit his ability to go online.
- Be aware of what your children are posting on social network sites. One rule of thumb that my son and I continually discuss is “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother or grandmother to read!” Remember, nothing is private. People can copy and paste your words in and out of context and send them around the world. And knowing that grandma might one day read it can really help kids keep focused on the importance of what is written, and how it is written.
- Set clear expectations. Be straightforward about the expectations of behavior in public and in private, including the internet. Just because it is typed on a screen doesn't excuse bad behavior and inappropriate language. Tell them what is off limits and remind them from time to time. There’s no need to nag, just a gentle, “Remember, no chatting”, for example, is enough.
- Know the lingo. If you don’t know what “9 gtg ttyl” means, you need to learn. http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php is just one of the many places online to look for Internet abbreviations. (By the way, it says “Parent is watching. Got to go. Talk to you later.
The NAMC Upper Elementary Health Sciences manual discusses media awareness and the importance of maintaining privacy and anonymity online. It suggests creating a classroom Internet contract as a way to discuss and visualize the importance of Internet safety. At home, you could include the use of cell phones and text messages as well.
There are a number of ways to filter the information your child has access to online. Many Internet providers offer parental blocking filters that you can set up through them. Filtering is really only good for offensive and inappropriate content sites.
For texting and email, there is a program called MouseMail™ that blocks inappropriate messages from being delivered to your child’s email, cell phone, smartphone – basically anything that connects to the Internet - and notifies parents that either an incoming or outgoing message was identified as having “questionable content”. Programs like MouseMail™ help keep your children safe as well as provide adults with peace of mind.
As much as I advocate for the use of technology to enhance learning and expand research, I realize, like any tool, in the hands of the wrong people it can become dangerous. At the push of a button, rumors, gossip, and images can circulate like wildfire. We, as Montessori teachers and parents, know and understand the importance of keeping childhood sacred and keeping our children safe. Being aware of cyber bullying is the first step. Doing something about it is the second.
- Lessons in Montessori Grace and Courtesy: Cyberbullying – Part 1 of 2
- NAMC's Upper Elementary 9-12 Health Sciences curriculum
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, September 23, 2010.