Powerful Tools to Protect Our Children’s Online Safety

The following article was written by Amy Williams who is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. @AmyKWilliams

As educators or parents, we actively seek opportunities to empower our children. We teach them how to tie their shoes, budget money and cross the street correctly. We spend hours teaching a child stranger danger and how to operate a moving vehicle. After all, it is our job to instill these life skills in the younger generations. Unfortunately, many of us might be overlooking one area that poses a very real threat to our children: technology.

Online Dangers Facing Our Children

Far too often, we don’t bat an eyelash before handing our charges digital devices that connect to the Internet or social media. We use it to enhance learning for assignments, make study time engaging, and even to connect with other students across the globe. Unfortunately, hidden among all the innocent swiping are some very serious dangers that can derail any child’s future.

Listed below are four common pitfalls many kids digitally stumble into:

Cyberbullying. This is probably of the most well-known dangers out there. In fact, within the last few years cyberbullying rates have tripled instead of going down. Data has been collected that show 87 percent of our kids have witnessed digital bullying. This percentage is up from 27 percent in 2013!

Phishing or hacking. Phishing often involves tricking users into clicking on viruses or sharing personal information that can lead to identity theft. The problem with these scams is how authentic many of them look. Often, they lure children in with the promise of discounted goods, scholarship applications, free games, or free ringtones which can be hard for kids (and even adults) to resist.

 Sexting. This common online behavior is now seen as a “normal” part of development today; just an upgraded version of “show me yours, I’ll show you mine”. Unfortunately, due to a child’s age, brain development, and outdated child predator laws, sexting can quickly spiral out of control leading to felony charges, extortion, or bullying.

 Online predators. It is estimated that there are about 500,000 predators logged online everyday scouring the Internet for new targets. The problem for our children is that the anonymity of the cyberworld is how predators can assume any persona from behind a keyboard. Often, they create fake profiles that mimic other teens. Then, predators contact kids based solely on their usernames, ages, and interests. Children often fall for these fake profiles and start the grooming process.

Empowering Children: Strategies for Online Protection

The above danger make it essential that we are teaching our children with ways to protect themselves online. The following 10 strategies can help empower our kids so they can safely navigate the Internet and enjoy the world waiting at their fingertips:

Create a technology contract. Technology contracts allow us to clearly outline all expectations and consequences. It helps children know what is exactly expected and how they should behave. It also gives adults a guide to responding to inappropriate conduct or behaviors. When done correctly, this contract can prevent a lot of heartache, arguments, and slammed doors.

Never share passwords. A lot of cyberbullying occurs when ex-friends take over a child’s accounts or steal sensitive photos. Avoid this from happening by guarding passwords.

Always double check the sender’s email address to make sure it matches the content of the email. If you have any questions or something looks out of place, contact that company using a number from your records and ask if they have any details regarding the offer or message.

It’s okay to “say no” to a sext request. If a person really cares about someone, they will respect their decision.

 Never show your face or distinguishing marks in a sext. Let’s face it, kids will push boundaries. Even though authorities can track phone numbers and IP addresses, kids can prevent bullying if there is no way to identify a person in a photo.

 Have them tell a parent or adult immediately if you see anything online that makes them uncomfortable.

 Document any bullying or threatening messages. This is critical, because bullying is defined by repeated behaviors. If help is needed, a child should have evidence it has happened frequently.

 Only “friend” people you know. Avoid friending friends of friends or strangers. Users should stick to the people we interact with on a regular basis.

 Avoid meeting people IRL (in real life). For teens and children, this is crucial. Make it a rule not to share addresses, school schedules, or meetings.

Be careful about oversharing personal information. Teens love selfies, but the backgrounds reveal a lot about their behaviors. Tell them to crop out identifying landmarks or shirts that might give clues to their physical whereabouts or personal lives.

What tips do YOU have for teaching children how to protect themselves online?


Why Are Schools Eliminating Art, Music and Physical Education

School budgets are shrinking as states are attempting to make up for tax losses. One of the first places school boards make cuts are in art, music and physical education. These “frills” are the reasons why many children come to school in the first place. Each of the subjects listed above allows and encourages free expression. Every society in the world has them all and they are universally understood. Individuals are shaped through their artistic expression.

Students are becoming increasingly obese so eliminating a controlled, mandated physical education course in school helps keep weight loss to a minimum. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report in 2014,, “nearly one-third of children between the ages 2-19 are overweight or obese. My personal observations delivering workshops or travel indicate that this is a global problem. Overweight or obese children are at a higher rate for having heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer and are more likely to stay overweight as adults.

Could it be that these course are being eliminated or cut back is because the nation’s focus is on testing and these subjects cannot be tested?

Just asking.


Teams and Their Value in Education

I have the distinct honor to me a member of the Akribos Group.  They have just published an article that I wrote for them entitled, Teams and Their Value in Education.

For those of you interested in reading it the article can be accessed at


Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Quits, Moves to Texas

Shawn Shehan, Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year announced that he and his wife and their newly born daughter were leaving Oklahoma for a variety of reasons. “I feel like schools are struggling to get out of ‘Teaching 101’ because they’re losing veteran and experience teachers to higher paying states.” They filed for only one job in Texas and were immediately accepted. He will be making $20,000 above what he was making. “I will never ever see (that) as a public school educator in Oklahoma.”

He stated “We love our district (in Oklahoma) our city, our students and their families, but what’s happening in education in the state of Oklahoma is is criminal. But this session in the state legislature, it became clear that the legislators were uninterested in finding solutions.” Oklahoma’s schools have the lowest pay rate of any state.

There is a nation-wide as well as a global shortages of teachers. While there are a variety of reasons why teachers leave teaching, starting with a major pay raise is a good place to begin. No other professional with as much education and responsibility is lower paid.


Growing Up DRUG FREE- A Parent’s Guide to Prevention.

From my friend, Stephen R. Sroka, Ph.D.,President, Health Education Consultants

 Since the summer vacation offers more opportunities for accidents, parties and new “friends,” here are three drug prevention education resources for parents and educators.
 The DEA and USDOE has updated Growing Up DRUG FREE- A Parent’s Guide to Prevention.
This new version tackles opioids and synthetic marijuana as well as the importance of adolescents having a good bond with an adult to reduce engagement in risky behaviors. Protective factors include school connectedness. How to talk to your child about drugs as well as what to do if you think your child is using drugs are addressed. Drug identification charts and resources are included. Must reading for all parents and caregivers.
Two other timely resources about heroin and painkillers:
Teens and Heroin in the Suburbs:Expert Advice
Prescription Painkillers: Should Your Teenager Ever Take Them?

Should Guns Be Allowed in Schools?

From a New York Times Report, 5/26, 2017

CLIO, Mich. — When Kenneth Herman visits his daughter’s school, the handgun holstered to his right hip is visible to anyone. And that has caused him problems. School officials have denied Mr. Herman access to school buildings, asked him to wait in the principal’s office and called the Sheriff’s Department on him. So, Mr. Herman sued Clio Area Schools for the right to carry his weapon openly on school grounds, and in August he won the case. The district has appealed.

The two sides are divided over legislation introduced by Republicans in the State Senate that would allow people with the proper permits to carry concealed weapons at schools, but would ban open carry there. The measure could come up for a vote before the end of the year.

Michigan law on weapons in schools is complex, and to some extent unsettled. Like many states, Michigan bans concealed guns at schools, sports arenas and other places. But the judge in the Clio case found that residents can take handguns into those spaces provided they carry them openly and have concealed pistol licenses. Guns, openly carried can be brought into libraries in the state.

The legislation would apply to schools covering kindergarten through 12th grade, and seeks to extend concealed-carry rights to colleges, bars, day care centers and other areas where such guns are currently restricted. The legality of guns on public college campuses remains murky: The University of Michigan bans weapons on its property, but that policy has been challenged in court.

Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, who has said individual school districts should have the option of banning guns altogether.

I would have thought that the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School would have taught the country about the ‘right” of carrying guns in schools. Obviously, I was wrong. I guess that the next violent school incident in school would teach the country another lesson. It is interesting that today’s New York Times had reports of two students bringing guns to school.


Today is International Children’s Day

The Save The Children Foundation has just issued a report entitled  “The End of Childhood Index” which describes the problems facing children around the world. In the list gathered by the Foundation, the United States ranks 36th out of the 176 nations covered in the report.  The report points out that where you are born will affect a person’s longevity. And the kind of life live will affect the nation for 15 years.

The ten states which are most threatened are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Nevada.


The Trump/DeVos Education Budget


  • When Donald Trump ran for president he promised to change –not improve, education. He has kept his promise. He and his Education Secretary are proposing to do exactly that. Their budget calls for deep cuts to public education while making substantial funding for “school choice programs”. In the White House’s spending proposal, hundreds of millions of the dollars would go toward charter-school and voucher initiatives, while another $1 billion in grants would encourage states to adopt school-choice policies,” While Trump and Betsy DeVos chose private schools for their kids, with small class sizes, they want to eliminate the federal funding that helps America’s public schools lower class sizes.
  • Trump says there is nothing more important than being a teacher, but he eliminates the loan forgiveness program that helps students pursue teaching careers, eliminates funding for teacher preparation and educator support, and guts most other programs that alleviate student debt or make college more affordable.
  • Trump says vocational education is the way of the future yet slashes career and technical education funding.
  • DeVos promised not to hurt children with special needs, but the budget cuts one-quarter of the Medicaid funding that now pays for essential school-based services like physical therapists, feeding tubes and other medical equipment, and health screenings.
  • President Trump says that vocational education is the way to improve employment but is cutting Career and Technical Education Funding by $168 million.
  • Secretary DeVos has proposed cutting funding for Special Education via Medicaid that pays for school-based services like physical therapists, feeding tubes and mental health screenings.
  • Proposed cuts to Title 1 funding including $550 million in direct Title 1 funds.
  • Cuts $9.2 billion in the US Department of Education funding or 13.6 percent of the spending level Congress approved last month.
  • After-school programs are cut by $1.2 billion that currently serves 16. million students.
  • $2.1 billion dollars are cut for teacher training and class size reduction.
  • A program that provides $15 million for child-care for low-income parents in college would be cut.
  • And the list continues….

Figures supplied by Emma Brown, Valerie Strauss and Denielle Douglas-Gabriel in the Washington Post, May 22, 2017

Petition your local Senators, and Representatives to stop this insanity.  Contact friends and family to do the same.  The jobs you save may be your own.  The lives you save will be your students.



Should 8 years olds have cell phones?

According to the Daily (United Kingdom) (September 17,2015) an eight-year old girl uploaded sexually explicit video of herself on to the Internet according to police. A 12-year-old boy also sent naked snapshots of himself to a 13-year-old-girl. And a 15-year-old girl sent explicit messages to an 18-year-old man.

 Many children see sexting as harmless fun, but it is illegal and can leave young people vulnerable to blackmail or attract the attention of sex offenders. Children can send sexual images of themselves in an instant. They often don’t really think about the consequences.

They send these pictures to a girlfriend or boyfriend but these images can quickly end up being shared widely in school and online. Depending on the country, sending naked pictures of children below the age of consent (generally 18) are subject to imprisonment.

We need to try to avoid criminalizing children wherever possible and aim to educate them (and their parents) in order in order to protect them from harm.





Distracted Driving and Teenagers

Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and over 1,000 are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. (1) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that  in 2015 “Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.” According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distraction was a factor in 58 percent of 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders. Distracted driving includes activities such as using a cell phone, texting, and eating while driving. Using in-vehicle technologies like navigation systems or stereos, can also be a source of distraction. Engaging in any of these activities while driving poses a crash risk, endangering the driver, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, as well as other drivers.

From The Child Safety Network


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