“Be Best” : Is It The Best Advice About Internet Safety?
**This blog post was written by our SGS Ambassador, Abbie Mueller (and only slightly edited by our writing crew).**
You may have heard in the news that First Lady Melania Trump recently gave a presentation where she announced her new program, “Be Best.” In her speech, she said that she wants to focus on three issues facing today’s children: drug addiction, mental health, and social media pressures. To work on the part of her program dealing with social media pressures, she plans to use guidelines called “Talking With Kids About Being Online.”
Who better than a Smart Girl to check out these online safety guidelines?
So, I took a look, and here are my thoughts...
To start out, the First Lady’s guidelines talk about three ways online activity can be risky:
- Inappropriate conduct (when kids may forget they are accountable for their actions online),
- Inappropriate contact (when other people online have bad intentions like scamming, bullying, hacking, or being predators), and
- Inappropriate content (when kids see pornography, violence, or hate speech).
I agree with all of those categories and I think it is a good and organized way to look at all of the same things Smart Girl Society talks about as potential risks of using social media.
The guidelines recommend to parents that:
First, they talk to their kids and supervise them on the internet and social media in different ways according to their age.
I liked that because the kind of access a teen might be allowed to have should be different than what a younger kid should have. They also give ideas on parental controls like:
- filters, monitors, and blockers for younger kids,
- time limits for tweens, and
- teaching about credibility, manners, and expectations for older teens.
What I thought was very important (and what Smart Girl Society) teaches was that they encourage kids to not overshare and keep personal information private, to be aware of the consequences and how everything they put online never really goes away, and that what they post can get used for more than just that post.
That last part is especially important given what we have learned in the news recently about Cambridge Analytica and other businesses that collect information from social media activity for uses other than what kids might think of or want it to be used for.
The guidelines also remind parents to make sure kids are not sharing GPS or location information.
This is something Smart Girl Society also does a great job of educating people about. A lot of what this part of the guidelines talks about can be found here at Smart Girl Society at: www.smartgirlsociety.org/blog/article/what-does-good-digital-citizenship-look-like-for-teens
Another thing I thought was a good reminder was that they encourage kids to be very careful not to provide personal or financial information unless the website has the security symbol, and to keep all accounts password-protected.
Kids might also not think about when you use wifi somewhere like the airport, or a coffee shop, or anywhere in public, that the wi-fi network there is not necessarily secure, and anything you send back and forth on that network can be taken by a hacker.
Kids should also never respond to an email or a text that asks for personal or financial information or click links in a message that asks for that information. That’s almost a sure way to get a computer virus or to allow them access to your personal information that you have on your device.
The guidelines do discuss COPPA, which is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and how kids’ privacy should be protected online by requiring parental consent before programs collect kids’ information.
It gives parents options for how to handle that process. You can read more about COPPA here on Smart Girl Society’s website: www.smartgirlsociety.org/blog/article/what-is-coppa
In conclusion, I would say that the Be Best guidelines are a great tool for giving parents a place to start the conversation with their kids about online safety. It gives a very general overview of issues facing parents and teens out there in cyberspace and on their mobile devices.
However, if you want in-depth information, detailed reviews on specific apps and sites and programs, and much more information about new developments in social media and how quickly different apps and programs change, Smart Girl Society is still, in my opinion, your VERY BEST resource.
You can access the Be Best program internet and social media safety materials at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Talking-with-kids-about-being-online-_2018.pdf
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Smart Girl Society, Inc., is an Omaha-based nonprofit working to educate and inspire smart & confident girls, women, & families. Through educational workshops, civil outreach programs, and technology & social media research, we work with girls, parents, & educators to true authenticity on social media and in real life. We educate on online safety and how to avoid becoming a target of sextortion. We also inspire action for students to focus on their personal brand development, leadership, educational opportunities, and healthy social skills.