Forum to help parents keep kids safe online - East Valley Tribune: News

Forum to help parents keep kids safe online

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Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2010 4:07 pm | Updated: 3:30 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Raising Arizona Kids magazine is partnering with Social Media Club Phoenix to host a free forum for parents about how to help children use Facebook, Twitter and other social media safely.

Devon Adams’ 5-year-old daughter, Claire, has her own Twitter account and Facebook page.

Although the Chandler dad monitors Claire’s online activities, and Facebook is mainly used for the popular Farmville game, Adams said it’s important for his daughter to start establishing her own identity.

“My wife and I were always referencing her in tweets, it just seemed easier to have her on Twitter,” said Adams, 35, an advanced placement English teacher at Chandler’s Basha High School and an online freshman English teacher for Mesa Community College.

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Adams will share his experiences raising a tech-savvy daughter, the boundaries he has within his family with social media and his interactions with his students on Facebook, as one of four panelists during a free forum Thursday on what parents can do to make social media safe for their children.

Raising Arizona Kids magazine is partnering with Social Media Club Phoenix to host the panel, which will discuss popular social networking sites’ features, privacy settings and what information should and shouldn’t be shared online.

The goal is to reach parents who aren’t online, and answer any questions about sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, as well as blogging and text messaging.

Katie Charland, a community relations manager with Raising Arizona Kids, came up with the idea for the social media awareness panel last August. She had been consulting before getting a job at the local parenting magazine, and saw a need.

Charland contacted Jeff Moriarty, chairman of Phoenix Social Media Club, and the two worked on finding a venue and searching for a diverse group of panelists involved in social media.

“We want parents to not be afraid of technology,” said Charland, 26, who graduated in May with a masters degree in mass communication with a focus in public relations for nonprofit groups. “This is something that really can help their children communicate and build relationships. We want parents to understand the tools and be safe with it.”

Charland urges parents to get online, start their own Facebook account and play around with the features and privacy settings.

“Be open and honest with your kids, especially teens, on how it can impact their future” by posting inappropriate pictures and words, Charland said.

Children should not post basic contact information, such as addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses.

Assume everything posted is public information, Moriarty stressed. “You want to expose your kids under controlled circumstances,” said Charland, who suggested establishing a family account and letting children only have an individual account once parents think they’re ready and responsible.

Parents are hearing about “crazy, horror” stories about sexual predators and online bullying. They need to get “honest” information, Moriarty said.

“These social media tools are everywhere,” said Moriarty, of Gilbert, who added he has been online a “long, long” time. “Kids are using them. They want to use them. They can be incredibly valuable if they’re used safely. Our goal is to give the parents the unhyped information.”

As a mother of three children, including two teenagers, panelist Calie Waterhouse knows a thing or two about social media. It’s part of her job as the internet community manager for Skateland Chandler, Skateland Mesa and Great Skate Glendale.

Waterhouse will share her experience, as well as talking about an incident where police were called after her 15-year-old son received an anonymous, threatening text message.

“I want to let parents know that even if you delete a text message, it’s still kept forever,” said Waterhouse, 43, of Chandler. “Cell phone companies keep those records.”

Many employers also are looking on Facebook, so young people should be aware it could affect their employment.

“Having teenagers blog and on Facebook, they need to realize there are consequences,” Waterhouse said. “Those are lifetime choices they are making.”

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