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Earlier this month, Safe and Sound Schools participated in the Understanding the Digital Disconnect – Parents, Teens and the Internet Twitter chat hosted by stopthinkconnect.org.

Modern day technology has drastically changed the ways in which we consume and relay information. Today’s media and communication landscape is much different than what we experienced as kids. As a result, today’s parents are faced with the growing challenge of raising tech savvy kids in a digital world without having lived through a “connected” childhood themselves.

After a summer of reconnecting with my kids, I fear losing them again to the stresses and digital social lives that comes with back to school. Sure, the internet and the growing number of social media outlets provide our kids with an opportunity to explore the world and socialize with friends, but the thought of cyberbullying, predators, or losing interest in the real world is frightening for many parents.

The #ChatSTC provided some good insights, whether your kids are new to social/digital media, or if you just need a refresher after the summer. Key tips from the chat include:

  • Talk to your kids. With the back to school season underway, a family tech talk discussion lends itself to perfect opportunity to remind your kids about the dangers of sharing personal information, location, and other types of content that may give predators insight into their life.
  • Explain the “why.” Parents can help students understand the reasoning behind tech/digital rules and/or restrictions by maintaining open dialogue, explaining their rationale, and helping them see the consequences of certain actions with supporting online news stories, and periodically checking in.
  • Involve your schools. Today’s schools can help children navigate the digital world safely by teaching healthy concepts of digital use and serving as a resource for parents who would like more information about the digital disconnect their child may be experiencing. Ask your students how they are using and talking about tech in the classroom. In addition, your child’s school counselor, psychologist, and tech specialist offer additional resources and insights to help bridge the digital divide.  

You can browse below if you’d like to explore more content related to the Twitter chat.

Schools across the nation have spent the summer preparing for a safe school year.  Among those preparations, many schools are examining and introducing new protocols such as those designed to protect students and staff in an active assailant (intruder or attacker) scenario.

Recently, a mother reached out for perspective following the introduction of active assailant training at her daughter’s middle school. This mother (we’ll call her Susie) is well-educated, informed on community and school issues, and lives in an excellent school district. She received an email from her child’s school about the new program and learned that school staff had already been trained and were prepared to introduce the program to students the next week. Although surprised at the quick turnaround, Susie recognized the threat of an active assailant at school as a rare one, but like most parents, she could not help but be concerned about the possibility.

When Susie’s daughter came home from school after the training, Susie asked her how it went. “Well, basically Mom, it’s every man for himself,” replied the young girl.

Determined to remain calm and objective, Susie took a deep breath and gently pressed for more information.  “How did my daughter walk away with that idea?” she wondered.  Susie knew one thing for sure: this was not what the school staff had intended.

We encouraged Susie to share this experience with the school to help staff better develop and deliver safety protocols, instruction, and training.

Throughout the process, Susie shared some key takeaways with us:

  • Parent Education and Preparation: Susie first learned, via email, about the upcoming training only one week before introduction. Parent meetings, forums for discussion, and plenty of notice allow for questions, alleviate fears, and build community around new programs.
  • Parent Support: The school’s initial email provided parents with some conversation starters to facilitate discussion at home. Susie found this helpful in preparing her daughter ahead of the training. Though afterward, Susie didn’t receive any follow up about how it went or how she could support this new learning at home. Follow-up conversation guides can help parents support student preparedness and monitor their child’s adjustment to new protocols.
  • Opportunities for Discussion and Feedback: Susie’s daughter said the training made her feel better about getting to safety in an emergency; but, her daughter had lots of questions following the training. Inviting student (and parent) questions and observations following instruction and/or training is essential to any school-based programming.
  • Student Support:  Susie learned that teachers introduced the new program along with the school guidance counselor. This let Susie know that the school was attending to the social-emotional needs of students through the process.  Guidance and monitoring from school-based mental health providers (i.e. guidance counselors, psychologists, and social workers) can help identify specific student and staff needs for such instruction and training.

We encourage schools to learn from experiences like these, keep parents and students actively involved, and continually examine programs and practices in order to move forward together for safer schools.

Check out these related resources for educators and parents:

The Lockdown Drill, Who Let the Dog In? and Police In Our School, children’s books by Deputy Becky Coyle

Safe and Sound Tools for Safety Education:
Developmental Levels of Safety Awareness
Hierarchy of Education and Training Activities
Stay Safe Choices

Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Assailant Drills from NASP and NASRO

 

Michele Gay, Co-founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools

The recent series of violent events and tragedy across our country have devastated community after community, family after family.  Our hearts are heavy for each of the communities, families, and victims touched by this violence. We at Safe and Sound Schools are working within our network of school safety professionals and community members to support and prepare schools for addressing these issues and fostering positive, peaceful dialogue. Together, we can prepare to welcome our students and families back to a safe and reassuring school environment.

The following statement is contributed by Safe and Sound Advisor, Dr. Melissa Reeves on behalf of the National Association of School Psychologists.

We join the nation in sorrow and outrage at the senseless acts of recurring violence. The level of anger and violence in this country is unacceptable and is a heartbreaking symptoms of serious underlying societal problems.

As parents, caregivers, and educators, we have a critical responsibility to help children and youth understand the challenges at hand within a problem-solving context and see themselves as active participants in our collective national commitment to liberty and justice for all.

It is our hope that the nation will take a lesson or two from how effective schools contribute—on a daily basis—to children’s understanding of what it means to be part of a positive community. School communities succeed in large measure because they maintain values that shape a positive learning environment. These values are expressed in the following ways.

  • Adults model and teach desired behaviors. Adults can help children and youth manage their reactions to events in the news and their communities by understanding their feelings, modeling healthy coping strategies, and redirecting negative thoughts and feelings.
  • What we say and how we say it matters.  Adults should model civil discourse and provide opportunities to engage children and youth in conversations that focus on common goals rather than labeling groups of people for individual behavior.
  • Other people’s perspectives matter. The very nature of civil disagreement is to acknowledge respectfully the views and experiences of other people and learn from differing perspectives. Adults can create safe spaces for youth to share their feelings and concerns while also exploring how they might feel and act if they were in someone else’s shoes.  
  • Trusting relationships are essential. Establishing positive relationships between adults and students is foundational to safe, successful learning environments. Schools can provide opportunities to strengthen positive interactions with law enforcement, such as engaging SROs as integral members of the school team.
  • Safety and well-being are a shared responsibility. We each have a role in countering violence, inequity, and isolation. Being silent is not a responsible option. We have to actively counter anger and hate with acceptance and compassion everywhere.
  • Contributions and effort are recognized and valued. We can and must honestly address systemic problems, but we must also acknowledge the individual citizens of all races and ethnicities, public servants and leaders, and members of law enforcement who go above and beyond to do the right thing every day.

There is no more important endeavor than helping our children and youth become positive, productive, valued citizens. We start by making their safety and well-being an unequivocal priority no matter where they learn, play, and live. Together we can work together to counter hate and violence and bring positive change and unity to our country.

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Dr. Melissa Louvar Reeves is the current President-Elect of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). She is a nationally certified school psychologist, licensed professional counselor, and licensed special education teacher.