PENNSYLVANIA, USA — We can't get around smartphones anymore.
"Yeah, they're not going anywhere," said Pennsylvania State Trooper Anthony Petroski.
So, where do we go from here? How do we keep our children safe without keeping them from an evolving world of technology that will keep moving forward, with or without us?
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of the book "First Phone: A Child's Guide to Digital Responsibility, Safety, and Etiquette."
She says it comes down to open communication between a parent or guardian and the child.
But no matter what, mistakes will be made.
"It's funny, over the years, I've gotten a lot of calls from parents that say "Oops, my child has gotten into something they shouldn't have. They saw something that was upsetting to them. Something that was inappropriate." I realize that these are even conscientious parents who are closely monitoring their kids, but these mistakes still happen," says Pearlman.
I spoke with former WNEP reporter and mom of four, Sarah Buynovsky, who keeps an eye on her children's digital activity. She says we can't hold social media hostage from our children.
"For them, this is their means of communication and socialization, and that's a challenge. Because I will a lot of times get that pressure from them like well, "I don't know what's going on, or my friends are planning this, and they're doing it on Snapchat, or they're doing it on this group or whatever." So that's another huge pressure that, you know, for this generation, this is how they communicate and collaborate, and I mean, like study. They have Snapchat groups for study sessions and all kinds of stuff," says Buynovsky.
Keeping up with friends, trends, and even school makes it necessary to take part in some form or another of social media.
But what comes with having social media is the enormous amount of responsibility and self-awareness. Because let's face it, the digital world isn't full of besties and funny memes-there are predators, too.
So how do we keep our children present, in the presence of someone who may not have good intentions?
"Having these conversations with kids and letting them know, 'Hey, don't have these conversations, but if somebody does have a conversation with you like that, you need to tell me. We need to report it to law enforcement so we could look into this. Because chances are if their child is receiving these messages, that's not the only child that's getting them."
Pennsylvania State Trooper Anthony Petroski says you can limit the content your child is exposed to by installing parental restrictions on phones and apps that let the parent or guardian have easier access to the child's movement throughout the web.
But set these things up together. Build the trust together.
Petroski says, "Hey, listen, technology isn't going anywhere, there's going to be more of it, not less of it. So, enjoy it, embrace it, but know that every part of it is not going to be good."
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