Our 2 days of Parent Orientation were full of seminars designed to answer the “burning questions” asked by lots of parents who are sending their kids to Saint Rose. Many of the questions were about navigating Saint Rose systems like finances, safety systems, schedules, academic help, dorm rules, and meal plans. Pretty routine items, all of which are also covered in the handy-dandy parent handbook they put in our lemon yellow bags of orientation info.
One of the most interesting “non-handbook” seminars was on internet security and privacy issues. This was a parents only seminar (the students were elsewhere talking about diversity, drugs & alcohol and playing rock-paper-scissors). I was floored at the real lack of understanding among fellow parents of how the internet works, what social networking is, and how it can impact a person. The seminar was helpful for most, I think, because it opened the parents’ eyes to the existence of social networks, and gave insight into facebook in particular. I have to say, though, I was left with a sinking feeling about many of the people in the room’s understanding of the presence their kids have on the web – it means they aren’t overseeing their kids’ internet use and safety; they were analog parents in a digital world. The scariest part of that realization for me was that as they’re sending kids off to college is really too late to seriously influence their teenagers’ behavior on a technology they know far more about than their parents.
Parents: How are you involved in your teenagers’ cyber-life? What are resources you’ve found helpful in learning about internet issues, both the pluses and the minuses of the web’s social world? Are you communicating with your teenagers about those pluses and minuses?
Youth workers: We tend to be more involved online with the youth in our groups than most parents are. How are you resourcing students, parents and families, if at all, about how social sites work, and the good and bad aspects of using them?