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Norwood HS is helping parents be more tech-savvy

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-06 08:49:54-05

NORWOOD, Ohio -- You know what rooting is, right?

If you think it’s “cheering for your team” or "when a pig searches for truffles," you need some help — especially if you’re a parent of a child age 10 or over.

Rooting, if you didn’t already know, is “the process of removing software restrictions imposed by (their) phone’s operating system,” according to Stephen J. Smith, Cincinnati Bell’s director of educational leadership.

Chances are, your kid could have told you this.

Our children inhabit online worlds many of us never dreamed would exist. They’re digital natives, while we’re first-generation immigrants to cyberspace, trying to learn how to talk with our thumbs.

But in some ways, it’s a new world for kids, too — not just because so many parents aren’t fully informed on slippery issues like cyber bullying or the existence of lock-down workarounds, but because parents often are unequipped to guide their children or even set an example.

It’s Smith’s job to shine some light on the technology our kids — at all socio-economic levels — have in their hands. To this end, Smith will give a presentation to adults March 7 at Norwood High School that covers basics such as privacy issues, bullying and good digital citizenship.

In a telephone interview, Smith pointed to the year 2007 as the most significant change in the cyber-landscape — when we shot to the moon, so to speak. That’s the year that Apple introduced its iPhone, and suddenly we were all floating in a mobile world of tracking devices, sexting and apps. Ever since then, things have evolved rapidly.

One of the topics Smith focuses on in presentations that he gives in different locations each week, to both parents and kids, is privacy and the evolving ways information travels. For example, he explained that parents and kids often don’t understand that an image sent from one device to another does not make a simple journey from point A to point B, but may stop in numerous servers or the Cloud, where it’s copied and stored and sometimes made available to third parties. Wandering into the Cloud space of another user can make images stored on a locked phone accessible to that Cloud account.

And sometimes there's simple sharing — images or words passed from one kid to another to another, the original never disappearing. That stupid thing your kid texted at age 14? It may be sitting on ice.

The lack of control over information, of course, can also be a big deal for kids who send a photo or video of themselves to a friend and then find the photo widely distributed. The images don’t have to be nude to cause deep distress. Smith said there are karaoke-like apps that allow children to make a video of themselves dancing to pop songs, which may seem benign enough, until the video gets uploaded to 50 phones and suddenly a vulnerable kid finds himself or herself mocked all day in school. Even if you don't know from rooting, you've probably heard of suicides and other tragic consequences of cyber bullying.

Smith said helping parents and kids understand how information travels just might teach a goofy kid to pause before sharing that boogie-down.

As for specific apps to avoid, or at least be aware of, there are many. Smith said Kik, for one, is a favorite of cyber-savvy pedophiles. The free messaging app is also wildly popular among kids. In a recorded blog post, Smith said “parents can use monitoring tools, such as TeenSafe and others to view Kik communications. … This (Kik) is a great app for adults, but I recommend caution for children under the age of 18.”

At the Norwalk presentation, Smith said, he will provide resources for further information, including his blog, “A Wired Family.”

For parents who can’t attend, “A Wired Family” is an invaluable resource. Smith suggested readers start with the post “Simon Says: Take 10 Steps Forward,” which includes 10 recommended steps parents take to protect their kids in cyberspace.

Another informative blog is “Be Web Smart: For the Analog Parent in a Digital World.”

If You Go
WHAT: Mobile Media: A Presentation for Parents
WHEN: 6:15-7 p.m. March 7
WHERE: Norwood High School, 2020 Sherman Ave., Norwood
MORE INFO: RSVP for the presentation here.