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Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Talking to kids, controlling apps among ways to copy with cyberbullying

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Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Talking to kids, controlling apps among ways to copy with cyberbullying
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Jen Rockhill of the Youth Service Bureau, Cottage Grove police officer and school liaison Gail Griffith, and Cottage Grove Middle School Vice Principal Jason Schultz led a cyberbullying program last week. But the talk was mostly about how to manage kids, phones and social media.

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Kids spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes a day in front of "screens." That's more time than they spend sleeping and way short of the nine hours of sleep they need, Rockhill said.

Even though the neighbors might hear the screams of protest at first, kids 18 and under should surrender their phones at bedtime, she said. Keep an eye on what else they have in their rooms such as iPods that connect to the Internet.

Some kids manage their phones very well, but teens can be impulsive and do dumb stuff.

For example, during lunch a middle school girl went into the bathroom and took a bare-breasted picture of herself and sent it to her boyfriend who was in the lunch line. "He'll never betray me," she said to herself as she sent it to him. One second after receiving it on his phone, he was showing the picture to all of his friends. True story, according to Griffith.

Keep talking to your kids, all three said.

Kids get caught up in stuff online. Four or more kids involved in a chat can get ugly. Your kid might not be bullying or putting down one of the participants, but might be in the middle of it.

A parent in attendance said she thought the adolescent her child was communicating with made a comment that was out of line on Facebook and called the child's mother, who said her child didn't have a Facebook account.

Griffith to the rescue. If your child gets caught up in a mess online, make a copy of the conversation and she'll call the parents, and talk to the kids. Rockhill will help you too. Call her at 651-458-5224. The YSB has lots of information about bullying and cyberbullying.

There is potential for parents to have problems. Because you are paying the cellphone bills, even if your child bought the phone with their allowance, you can be prosecuted for being in possession of child pornography if there are pictures of nude girls 16 and younger on the phone. Even if deleted, pictures are still there.

Don't let your kids have the SnapChat app. Any image sent is deleted in 10 seconds. I think it's too tempting to send bad stuff to teens.

Keep talking to your kids.

The kids have phone apps and can get around lots of controls, so you have to be up on this stuff. Ask your kids to help you navigate.

McGruff is a good application for parents and it's free. Among the things you can control are bad language, volume, movies and websites.

More important, though, is to be a role model. Get control of your own use of your phone and iPad.

A parent at the meeting said her daughter received a birthday party invitation stating no cellphones would be allowed. It's a start.

Keep talking to your kids.

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Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600
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