By: Lindsay Gaister
Texting. Tweeting. Posting. PMing. Do you know what your kids are doing online and on their cell phones?
The Internet has brought education to our fingertips, made communication instant, and allows us to define our identities through social networking. Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, along with texting, have become extremely popular and today’s youth rely heavily on these services to communicate with their peers.
Though there are huge advantages to the ease and availability of the Internet, there are also risks associated.
In order to help ensure the safety and responsible use of Internet and cell phones, Richard Guerry, author and Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication (IROC2), speaks around the world, teaching youngsters, teachers, and parents how to be aware of their online presence.
Guerry, who received his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Advertising from Rider University, realized that there was a sense of urgency for this type of program while working in the corporate IT world. He has also written the book, Public and Permanent: The Golden Rule of the 21st Century.
While the beauty of the Internet is appreciated and recognized through the program, the consequences that exist with innocent posts of information and pictures are discussed in greater detail. Along with highlighting the idea that Internet activity is “public and permanent,” IROC also helps to protect users from identity theft and other digital issues such as “sexting” and cyber-bullying.
When our own students were asked about using the Internet, 7th grader Jasmine H. ‘18 said, "I love being on the Internet and on my phone, but I always have safety in mind. I never answer unknown texts/calls and I never accept friend requests when I don’t know the person or put my private information anywhere."
Ninth grader Rebecca G. stated, “I never respond to any unknown people on Facebook or any other social media sites. Also, I never answer the phone or answer texts from numbers that are unfamiliar.” Rebecca’s twin brother Daniel also commented, “Sometimes when we’re having a conversation with someone, we are too focused on the words we’re saying, rather than the person we’re speaking to, which is also important. When I have a new friend on Facebook, they’ll chat with me to get to know me--I usually just think they’re being friendly, but that may not always be the case.”
Guerry’s interactive website highlights the importance of reading his book and also provides parents and teachers with necessary tools to ensure child safety. These tools include a Digital Safety Parents Pack with a Parent/Child Digital Consciousness Contract and Digital Citizenship information and contracts. In addition, a Safety Lab on the website allows users to report child exploitation, find a sex offender, and/or complete a cyber-risk assessment.
Since the inception of IROC in 2009, Guerry has spoken to over 600 audiences spanning not only 24 states, but three countries too. He has also won both the School Safety Advocacy Council’s “Exemplary School Safety Program” Award and the “Exemplary School Safety Initiative.”
"After being exposed to the information that Rich presented at the IBPA Conference, it was evident that everyone in possession of a cell phone needs to see and hear this presentation. It will be one of the most eye opening experiences you will ever have,” said Dwayne Peace, a retired police officer and the Vice President of Dare to Care, Inc.
On February 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm, Richard Guerry will to speak to parents in the community at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School's Main Auditorium, located at 3300 Old Court Road in Baltimore. While the session is geared towards parents of students in 5th-9th grade, the information being presented is relevant to any parents concerned about their children's safety online and on their cell phones.
According to Beth Tfiloh Youth Director Cherie Brownstein, Richard Guerry’s visit to Beth Tfiloh is “in response to parents’ requests for more guidance in dealing with pre-adolescent and adolescent safety with both Internet and phone usage.”
Parents are encouraged to attend this program in order to become more knowledgeable and be able to speak to their children about the responsibilities that come along with being a part of today’s digital world.