That’s the cry heard from kids as they prepare for the start of the new school year. In the rush to buy new clothes, get the right school supplies and have yearbook pictures taken, it’s a good time to make sure your digital self is ready for a new year too.
8 Be sure you know how to use the school website for all your needs.
8 Homework assignments, lunch menus, holidays and sports schedules are all online these days. Be in the know –
8 Know your school’s policies on all issues, but especially technology – can you bring your cell phone to school, what is the policy on texting during recess, how do you report cyberbullying?
8 Be sure you know your teacher’s feelings about electronics and Internet use in the classroom and on homework assignments.
8 Wikipedia is a good starting point, but remember that anyone can contribute to the definitions, check multiple sources to be sure your facts are correct.
8 Always use a search engine (Google, Bing, MSN, etc) and don’t just type in what you think a web address might be – you may find yourself in unpleasant territory.
8 When using a search engine, remember that the first few entries are “sponsored” or paid for, and may not be the best resource.
8 Notice when a site says “cached” – that information has been stored and may not be as accurate or timely as the day it was posted.
8 Know the copyright laws – if you didn’t write it, you can’t claim it as your own.
8 Learn how to give credit to the sources you use.
I Got an iPhone!
8 Are cell phones allowed at your school? Where can you keep them and when can they be turned on?
8 Don’t let someone use your cell phone when you’re not around – they could send an inappropriate message or picture and it will look like you sent it.
8 Avoid annoying spam, potential viruses and other things that could hurt your new laptop by adjusting the parental controls, virus protection and spam filters.
8 Be sure your backpack or laptop case is protective enough to handle the school bus or the backseat of your friend’s car.
8 Got a new iTouch or Game Boy – school is not the right place for those items, not to mention they are tempting for others to “borrow” and forget to return.
8 Check the privacy settings on all of your electronics, your profiles on Social Networking Sites (Facebook, MySpace, etc), gaming systems and cell phones. They may have changed and you want to be up to date.
New Faces, New Friends:
8 It is never smart to share passwords.
8 Always protect your personal information (birth date, phone number, address, etc).
8 While it is important to label your books, backpack, etc, be sure you don’t include sensitive information like passwords or social security numbers.
The Bullies are Back:
8 Bullying is NEVER okay.
8 Don’t respond to bullies, they are hoping for a reaction or for you to show fear.
8 Remember there is a difference between tattling and telling.
8 Stand together against bullying – a bully’s strength is one-on-one or when he/she can get others to join in the teasing. Stand with the victim instead and bullies lose their power.
8 Don’t retaliate – two wrongs never make a right.
8 Don’t take part in bullying – talking about, making fun of and being mean to others makes you a bully and not someone who others look up to or want to be around.
8 Encourage your friends to help stop bullying – the truly powerful person is someone who doesn’t belittle others just to make themselves feel good.
8 Know how to report an offline or online bully to the right person.
Make a Pact with your Parents:
If you help set the rules and stick to them – your parents will be more likely to appreciate your time online.
8 Agree to balance your online time with offline activities.
8 Make a deal on when homework has to be finished and the computer fun can begin.
8 Give your texting thumbs a rest by agreeing to set your phone aside for family time (telling mom about your day, at the dinner table, family conversations, etc).
8 Agree to use your computer, laptop or gaming system in a common room so it is obvious that you aren’t doing anything online that you shouldn’t.
8 Show your parents your Social Networking Profiles and get their opinion on what pictures are appropriate and which could lead to problems, what information you share and what is too much, and who you accept as friends. Have them help you with the privacy settings and show them how they could have a page and connect with their friends.
8 Be sure your online activities are age-appropriate and show your parents that as you get older, you can handle more responsibilities because you’ve learned to avoid the bad side of the Internet.