Bulkley Valley School District 54’s Matthew Monkman talked about risks of technology and how parents should engage with their children at last Tuesday’s educational forum at Houston Secondary School.
The District’s principal of technology and instruction pointed to how cell phones have gone from a tool of communication to becoming a miniature computer, and that technology multiplies the consequence of every act.
“Once anything is digitized, whether it’s text, images or audio, it is far-reaching, unrecoverable and permanent,” said Monkman. “Before you hit send, make sure you can live with the results.”
He cautions that everything posted online should be treated as if it were going public.
“Anything that you do online is taking place as though it’s taking place in the line up at Safeway,” said Monkman.
He furthers that putting it behind locked access does not necessarily promise full privacy.
“Because all the celebrities that store their stuff on iCloud and all of a sudden it got hacked, it was no longer private,” said Monkman. “So anything you digitize and store, unless you were going to store it on a device and put it in that vault in your house, consider that it could be, one way or another, shared publicly.”
Monkman also talked about the nascence of vault apps, which help users hide their information under the guise of a utility such as a piano or calculator. With the correct keystrokes, the tool will reveal a second layer with hidden messages or images.
“So if your child has been sexting, and wants to store all of the pictures in there so they’re not in the photos folder on their phone, in a vault app, everything gets stored in there,” said Monkman. “And I can guarantee you that as soon as one young person figures out a handy app like that, they’re going to be sharing it with everyone else.”
He cautions parents that social media use can develop a positive reinforcement cycle.
“When they post it up online, they get a little hit of dopamine in their head — pleasure neuron,” said Monkman. “And then each time they get a like on that, there’s one more hit.”
He advises parents to communicate with their children about these risks.
“If your child discloses something … don’t judge them,” said Monkman. “They’re young kids, they’re supposed to make mistakes.”
He advises parents and teachers to use social media, ensuring a good separation between private and professional life while modeling good online behaviour.
He also added that parents should not discourage their children from using it.
“And if we said to our children, ‘no, don’t use this stuff,’ we’re actually going to put them at a disadvantage because it is a part of everything,” said Monkman.
A parent asked whether Monkman does presentations for elementary schools, stating that children adopt cell phones at an increasingly younger age.
Monkman said he has received requests but believes the way forward would lie in teachers imparting the knowledge to their students.