Go Anacortes

Parents can't afford to fall behind on all things digital

Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 6:15 am | Updated: 10:57 am, Wed Nov 18, 2015.

These days, most of us are pretty clear on the meaning of LOL, BFF and OMG.

But now there is BIL (boss is listening), HWGA (here we go again) and IANADBIPOOTV (I am not a doctor but I play one on TV). And so much more, to which you may think, what a CWOT (complete waste of time).

Maybe. But parents can’t afford to dismiss it because it’s the growing language that teens and pre-teens are using on social media, where they spend an enormous amount of time. Parents, meanwhile, are all too aware of the growing challenge of keeping up with their kids, not only with the technology, but how they’re using it.

Kids run circles around most of us online. But as bright and creative as they are, most haven’t a clue about how to stay safe and not overshare.

Canadian police officer Darren Laur had some suggestions for parents during a visit to Anacortes last week, and his presentation was fascinating and informative. I talked to some students the next day about what they learned during his speeches at student assembly.

Did they learn anything new? “Not really” was the answer from every one of the nearly dozen asked. And for the most part, they’re right. They can operate the machinery as if it’s a natural part of them. They’ve heard about the need to stay safe. But Laur proved that knowing about trouble and avoiding it are two different things.

Before he arrived, Laur said he convinced several students to “friend” him on Facebook, which gave him access to a lot of their personal information as well as insights into their interests, likes, dislikes and personality. In person, Laur looked nothing like the 15-year-old girl he was pretending online to be.

He described how he once showed a teenager just how easily a stranger could find her, just by accessing photographs and names connected to her online. He figured out what kind of car she drove and where she worked and within short order found her vehicle in the store parking lot and went inside to say “Hello.”

Laur talked to the kids about the importance of staying safe, but he reminded parents that just talking to kids isn’t enough. Their understanding of the implications is limited, and even when they “know better,” they often still choose to learn the hard way, because they’re kids.

Can we just cut them off? Unrealistic. This is the world we live in, and Laur pointed out that kids are really doing some incredible and productive things online. As Laur says, to cut them off would put them far behind.

So, we parents better get busy figuring out how to keep up while hammering home the safety message.

Nagging, nosy parent? You bet. They have more than enough “friends.”

Be sure to read the story on Laur's visit to Anacortes.

* Colette Weeks is editor and general manager of the Anacortes American.

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