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Parents need to keep track of children’s online habits

Bill Spitzer

P & I Coordinator Parenting Resource Center

Do you know what your kids are viewing online?

Summer is a prime time for those idle minds to start to venture into cyberspace on the home computer or on their personal electronic devices.

The worldwide web is easily accessible and trouble is only a click away!  Without the structure of school during the summer our children sometimes find themselves without adult supervision.

Did you know that teens that visit social networking sites on a daily basis are three times more likely to drink alcohol?  That is according to a 2011 study done by a Columbia University.  Of course, this study only proved associations linking social media to substance abuse but it can serve as our wake-up call to pay attention to what our young people are doing while online.  Social media sites and internet ads may give the perception that “everyone is doing it” but as we found out in our local Positive Community Norms (PCN) survey, MOST students in Austin don’t drink alcohol.

We as parents can do many things to monitor our children’s exposure to the internet.  Netsmartz.org is one resource for internet safety that offers many tips and features short internet safety videos.  Some basic tips are: keeping your computer in a high traffic area that is easy for you to monitor as you are doing other chores in the home as well as establishing limits on what sites they may visit and for how long.  Don’t forget about all those personal devices, the internet is everywhere.  As for social media, make sure you know what sites your children are visiting and who they have as friends or followers.

We also have a local opportunity to learn more about online safety on Thursday, June 22 at the Austin Public Library.  The conversation is made possible by Austin Aspires and will be held at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.  This parent to parent event will encourage dialog and provide a chance to share ideas for protecting our children on-line.  Keeping our kid’s safe in our community and on-line is yet another way we can help them make good decisions.

Source: Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). www.netsmartz.org/NetSmartzKids

Bill Spitzer is the Planning and Implementation (P & I) Coordinator working closely with APAC (Austin Positive Action Coalition).  APAC and Bill will be working with our schools and community as part of a 5-year grant focusing on Positive Community Norms.  Feel free to contact him at the Austin High School 507.460.1800 ext. 0361 or via e-mail bill.spitzer@austin.k12.mn.us.  This grant is made possible by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, ADAD and hosted locally by the PRC.  To learn more about the Parenting Resource, visit their website at www.familiesandcommunities.org