Trust your chil­dren, know their tools

Northern News (Kirkland Lake) - - NEWS - CINDY MALES

Alec Couros is go­ing di­rectly to the source when it comes to keep­ing up with teenagers’ so­cial me­dia trends, which plat­forms they’re us­ing and how.

“I spend most of the time work­ing di­rectly with teens, talk­ing to them and try­ing to find out what they’re us­ing,” says Couros. “And it’s in­ter­est­ing. When a re­searcher walks into a room, they’re much more ex­cited to tell me what’s go­ing on, es­pe­cially when I can re­late to them with what they know, the way that they know the world such as memes, through YouTube videos. Sort of the things that are their in­side jokes.”

Couros is a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Regina, a re­searcher and speaker spe­cial­iz­ing in so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship. He made his pre­sen­ta­tion Rais­ing the Selfie Gen­er­a­tion to North Bay par­ents Mon­day night.

“Some par­ents feel they know the tools, they’re con­nect­ing. I’m here to con­vince them that per­haps they don’t know ev­ery­thing when it comes to the fine de­tails.”

More than 40 peo­ple at­tended Couros’ pre­sen­ta­tion, which was or­ga­nized by the par­ent in­volve­ment com­mit­tee of the Nipiss­ing-Parry Sound Catholic Dis­trict School Board.

“As a com­mu­nity,” says ed­u­ca­tion su­per­in­ten­dent Paula Mann, “we can learn how to mi­grate in this ever-chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment that our chil­dren and youth are ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in in terms of so­cial me­dia.”

Couros’ pre­sen­ta­tion gave par­ents a look into what their chil­dren may be up to on­line. He also an­swered their ques­tions about how to help and pro­tect their chil­dren on so­cial me­dia.

“’How do I keep up?’ is prob­a­bly the No. 1 ques­tion. ‘How do I

watch what’s go­ing on the phone?’ which I of­ten, un­for­tu­nately, have to tell them is im­pos­si­ble. You can’t. The new apps, you can’t know what’s go­ing on.”

Some par­ents are con­cerned about what their chil­dren are do­ing and see­ing on­line. Couros as­sured them “the vast ma­jor­ity of what kids are do­ing on their phone is pos­i­tive.”

Couros ad­vises par­ents to get on the apps like Snapchat and In­sta­gram them­selves, learn as much as they can about the tech­nol­ogy and in­sist their chil­dren keep their pass­words in an en­ve­lope in case mom or dad needs to get ac­cess.

“It’s a bit of a com­pro­mise. ‘I don’t need to be in your ev­ery­day face, but I need to have a rea­son­able amount of trust that you’re go­ing to use th­ese tools wisely.’

“All this comes down to is trust and build­ing a trust­ing re­la­tion­ship with your kids. And also, at the same time, if you know the tools well enough you’re go­ing to feel bet­ter with ques­tions to ask when you’re talk­ing to your kids.”

Alec Couros

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