Voorhees Township Public Schools are offering a free Social Media Safety Night for parents on Oct. 17

smartphone

Social media — it’s hard to avoid it, especially with preteens. These days, more people in that age group have smartphones, which most likely means they use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media sites on a daily basis. These apps can be beneficial but also harmful, depending on how they are used.

Because of the potential risks these apps present, Voorhees Township Public Schools, together with Berlin Community Elementary School, is offering a free Social Media Safety Night for parents on Monday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at Voorhees Middle School. They invited Gibbsboro parents to the event and are also having a daytime assembly for Voorhees Middle School students and invited the Gibbsboro middle school students to come as well. Berlin Community Elementary School is having this assembly for its students on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

“We are continuously striving to teach our students digital citizenship; this is part of our district-wide technology curriculum,” said Sue Donnelly, coordinator of special projects for Voorhees Township Public Schools. “Technology changes so quickly, and it can be a challenge for parents to keep up with the trends of social media.”

This is the first time the district is having a presentation for parents surrounding the importance of social media safety and how to understand what students are using today.

Digital citizenship speaker Josh Ochs, who is the founder of safesmartsocial.com, will conduct the presentation and give tips on digital citizenship and cyberbullying.

“He (Ochs) has several presentations available online, and I felt as though he can and will really relate to our students,” Donnelly said. “The parent component was a bonus; our initial intention was to provide for the students.”

Ochs will bring parents up to speed on the latest apps by presenting a social media app guide he created, which helps them understand what apps are good and bad for teens. He will also suggest ways to start a dialog with kids about being smart on social media.

“Parents and educators need to share in the responsibility of educating our students and children, opening up dialogue about social media sites — the good ones and the bad ones,” Donnelly said. “We need to talk about the consequences of inappropriate use of social media and emphasize the positive ways to use the tools we provide them.

“We would never give a kid a car and not show them how to drive it, this is the same thing. If we are giving them the tool, we must show them how to use it properly.”

Besides showing kids how to use social media properly, this will also be a learning stage for parents of how to keep up with the constant changes of technology.

“I think that technology changes so quickly, and it is important for educators and parents to stay up to date and exposed to the technology our students and children have at their fingertips,” Donnelly said. “It can be challenging to stay on top of the apps that are out there and what they do, so being educated and aware can only help our students and children be safe and successful.”