By Rosanne Franco

At the MJPOA/NASRO School Safety Conference this week, I couldn’t help but wish there was a similar conference for the parents of our students. The information that school administrators and school resource officers received was invaluable to our work of creating and maintaining safe educational environments. Unfortunately, parents may not know everything that their children are doing online that may endanger themselves and their classmates. Developing parent partnerships as students enter ninth grade may be one of the most important goals for a high school’s strategic improvement plan.

Parents certainly understand that seemingly innocent interactions on social media may develop into life changing situations. But, how much do parents know about what is available to students? Students are especially vulnerable because they are still developing their critical thinking skills and can easily get carried away in the moment. Students are often allowed to make adult decisions before they are ready, especially as they download and use social media applications without supervision. Parents don’t always understand what the social media apps are or what they can be used to do.

For example: How many calculator apps do students need? Check their phone – how many do they have? Ask them to show you how the calculator apps work – you’ll probably find that they’re not just calculators.

For example: If you access a live streaming app, like periscope on twitter or meerkat, how do you know what will be broadcast? Do you trust the originator? Has your student ever done a broadcast? How do you know?

Students have a greater amount of responsibility because of the freedom they have on the world wide web, but the accountability may be too steep a price. As adults, we need to be sure that we are encouraging our students to make good choices. But, as educators and school resource officers, we need to empower parents to learn more about the power of social media apps by building strong parent partnerships. We owe it to our students as we work to keep them safe.