Each month Hands & Voices chapter representatives meet for a one hour phone conference to share, learn, and support one another. The phone conference represents one of the ongoing components of the “O.U.R. Project.” The Project is designed to help us all Observe, Understand, and Respond to Child Abuse and Neglect so that we can enhance the safety and success of our children.
The February O.U.R. Project phone conference focused upon the topic of “cyber safety,” i.e., keeping our kids safe when they are on the Internet. Hand & Voices (H&V) chapter members from CO, OH, MN, TX, OR, IL, MS, PA and Headquarters were on the call.
To facilitate conversations about both the positive and challenging aspects of the Internet and safety considerations, the group read and discussed a very helpful article The Internet: Breaking down barriers to communication for deaf teens. In citing the positive use of internet by Deaf/HH teens, the article states, “The motivation for Internet communication among the deaf and hard of hearing is high. The Internet provides a unique, convenient communication tool that does not require speaking verbally. "I think that Internet communication may empower some teens with hearing loss, as in some cases, communicating via Internet helps to level the playing field," says Hayley Harlock, a social worker with the Ear, Nose, and Throat department at The Hospital for Sick Children.This advantage is not just technical or practical; it is also psychological. On the Internet, a deaf person can interact with people and resources in similar ways to a hearing person. This can help foster a sense of ability, control, and independence.” Furthermore, in talking about the importance of monitoring Internet use, the article states, “Exactly the same precautions should be used for all children and teens regardless of whether or not they have a hearing loss. It is important for parents not only to be aware of what types of Internet communication their teens are using, but to also teach their teens about the possible dangers of communicating using the Internet. This can help to ensure their teen's safety. Parents should encourage their teens to use sites that are fully monitored, so they don't have to stand over them watching. Parents should also empower their teens to be prepared. Make sure your teen knows it's OK to tell people that something is wrong. Give your teens the opportunity and skills before they 'go out' on the Internet. Be proactive, not reactive," says McClure.Despite the risks associated with using Internet communication, these risks can be readily managed, and the benefits outweigh the risks. The Internet and new mobile communications technologies are a boon for deaf and hearing-impaired children and youth. They facilitate interaction with peers and parents, helping to build self-esteem and nurturing independence.”(cited from articleSherene Chen-SeeMedical Writer/Editor, AboutKidsHealth can be found at http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/EN/NEWS/NEWSANDFEATURES/Pages/
A “FLIP” educational strategy was used to facilitate the discussion concerning cyber safety. Within this strategy H&V chapter representatives were asked to investigate the targeted topic of cyber safety before the phone conference. More specifically, H&V representatives were asked to read an article and bring to the phone conference an insight, question and YouTube resource concerning the “Cyber Safety” of their children. Below are a few excerpts from the phoneconference. For a complete list of the phone conference insights, questions and resources, go to the “O.U.R. Children Project” section of the Hands & Voices Web site (http://www.handsandvoices.org/).
- “Children are often afraid to tell their parents their bad experiences on the Internet because they fear they might lose their permission for online technologies.”
- “At our house with our teens, we put a lot of techniques in place for supervision about what we could control, and after thinking about this we would put a lot more effort in education for our kids to self-regulate.”
- “I realized I need to start addressing this with our very young children, and not wait til they are teens.”
(see more insights on the “O.U.R. Children Project” section of the Hands & Voices Web site)
- “I tend to be a helicopter mom. How do I not be paranoid?”
- “How has the Internet changed our parenting?”
- “How can I break through the challenges of internet safety so that my child can also enjoy the benefits of this technology for d/hh kids/teens?”
(see more questions and answers on the “O.U.R. Children Project” section of the Hands & Voices website)
“Internet Safety for Kids K-3" This video, titled Internet Safety for Kids K-3, was developed by the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is geared towards children in kindergarten through third grade. Animated characters interact with each other and people to talk through issues that may come up when going on the internet. Topics include, what to do when a friend asks to use your password, the importance of asking an adult to help type in web addresses, and child-friendly descriptions for terms, such as “internet” and “links”. Although the site is geared towards younger elementary children, the information and tips provided may be helpful for parents as well.
“Stop. Think. Connect. - Stay Safe Online”-This is a rap video with dancing by a multiracial group of teenagers that presents an important, yet simple strategy for being safe on line.
NetSmatrz (www.netsmartz.org) -“What Internet safety rules to you recommend for disabled children?” including 12 critical recommendations to keep all your children safe on the Internet; Internet Safety Rules and downloadable pledge documents for children primary through high school; “I will ____” statements that help keep kids safe;“CyberTipline” ; what to do and who to contact if your child experiences a cyber-safety problem.
(see resources and their URls on the “O.U.R. Children Project” section of the Hands & Voices Web site)
Cyber safety just doesn’t happen, we have to make sure it happens.
Note: If your state Hands & Voices chapter representative was not on the most recent “O.U.R. Children Project” phone conference call, ask your chapter director/president “why?”…and then volunteer to help!