Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Steps to Getting Teenagers Online Safely

Steps to Getting Teenagers Online Safely
By Danni Brayer

Classroom, 2014 | Artwork by Vik Muniz | Photo by Danni Brayer
Now that kids are using electric devices at younger ages, a set of child safety guidelines should accompany it to help protect them and their future.

If a device has Internet access, please take the time – and yes it takes some time – to set up parental controls for any child under the age of 13. This allows you to ‘control’ what websites, apps, games, and videos they can use/see while on the device. However, this doesn’t mean let the child use the device without parental supervision. Children are savvy with electronics, they’ll figure out a way around the parental safeguards in a heartbeat. An Internet device and a child always need supervision.

At the age of 13, the ‘new’ teenager should be allowed some ‘freedom’ on the Internet. Before you stop reading, hear me out on why this is important. This ‘new’ teenager needs to begin to learn the responsibility of his/her digital footprint on the Internet while they are under your guidance and protection. They need you to coach them in the ‘right way’ to behave online. Here are some recommended steps to ‘freedom’ with a few hows and whys:

Step 1: Personal Email – For the ‘new’ teenagers 13 birthday, set up special email for him/her as a birthday present. I recommend first initial and last name on G-Mail (like -; never use their birthdate or their full legal name in an email (never this can open them up to identity fraud. When you create the account, you have the username, the password, and access to the account. When ‘gifting’ this email address – it’s not one the school has given – make it understood that this account is for them and only them, but you reserve the right to ‘check it’ from time to time and the password isn’t to be changed without you doing it together.

Step 2: Internet Education – Have a discussion about the Internet, the pros/cons, and the way it will/can affect their future.
Internet:     Brief history, all of the resources that are out there on it, why it is called the World Wide Web, the Internet is a place just like your house or your city, how it comes into your home, who pays for it (you), etc. Model good online research to help them learn about the Internet. A good place to begin is the Computer History Museum website (
Pros/Cons: Internet Pros – Discuss the unlimited amount of information at their fingertips, the ability to talk with friends who live far away, all the cool stories about others and the neat things they do, the games they can find and play, etc.
Internet Cons – Discuss how the endless amount of information can put them at risk, the ability to talk to complete strangers and how stranger danger applies for the Internet too, how sometimes it’s difficult to figuring out the true stories from the fake stories on the Internet – discuss fact finding websites like Snopes (, etc.
Future:    Discuss their digital footprint on the Internet and that it begins the moment they enter the electronic world, not when they’re an adult. Define digital footprint for them – it is a recorded information or ‘footprint’ of all the places, post, pictures, etc. that one has placed on the Internet. Help them understand the things that they post, publish, code, and write will follow them for the rest of their life. It can affect everything from a college's admittance, a future employer, or a future mate. It all begins the moment their activity begins online, on the Internet, and some of it is archived forever in the Library of Congress ( for future generations to see and examine.

Step 3: Netiquette – Have the ‘new’ teenager share their email address with grandmas, grandpas, cousins, and a few friends. You, as the parent, should begin sending emails to your son/daughter along with things for them to explore on the Internet. Help them with their Netiquette (online email etiquette or how to communicate properly online with others). I would suggest sending them things of interest to explore online that will provoke conversation and a reply like the newly discovered ancient Egyption find that is underwater ( and have them research to see if it is true. Occasionally, monitor the email account. Praise the good behavior and the learning that is happening in the emails sent back and forth over the time frame. However gently discuss or respectfully reprimand flagrant violations of behavior too. After a few weeks of ‘good’ Internet behavior modeling, then and only then will it be time to introduce social media.

Step 4: Acceptable Behavior Online – Before setting up a social media account, establish guidelines for acceptable behavior online with your ‘new’ teenager, like:
  • Only use positive speech to build others up.
  • Use only intelligent language – so if grandma were to read something, it won’t give her a heart attack.
  • Post only modest, tasteful images of yourself.
  • Ask permission before posting pictures of others.
  • Only ‘friend’ people you know in your daily circle of friends; refuse all others.
The above are suggestions, but do not create any more than five guidelines or the ‘new’ teenager won’t remember them and/or will find them difficult to follow. After these are established, discuss and create consequences for breaking one or more of the guidelines together. The teenager then knows the reason, upfront, why they are punished for their online actions. Usually, if the teen is involved with a parent in creating the guidelines and consequences they are less apt to violate them.

Step 5: Social Media – Talk with your ‘new’ teenager and discuss what social media interests them the most (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, SnapChat, etc.). Pick only one to begin to explore in the social media world. Set up the social media account for your child using the personal email you set up for them. Establish the same rules for the social media account that applied to the email account – you have the username and password. The password can’t be changed without you doing it together. If not already a member of the chosen social media, join it. Next, invite your teen to connect with you and, likewise, your teen to you. As a parent, be very careful what you post, as not to embarrass them online – this is part of ‘your’ digital footprint too.

Monitor your child and their online behavior, but do not smother them. Complement them in person and have conversations about how they think it is going. Communication is key. Discuss and coach misguided behavior. Punish any guideline violation with preset action; follow through is important, but always do so lovingly and with additional coaching. Remember this is ‘new’ and so is this teenager ‘thing’ – they are still learning both. Reinforce that you are trusting them to make the right choices and to keep a positive digital footprint for their future.

Here are a few additional online resources for parents:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interest 'Free' Change

Author & daughter, June 2011.
If congress fails to act by July 1, 2012, student loan interest rates will double from 3.4% to 6.8% overnight (Johnson, 2012). I personally have a struggling college student living under my roof. She currently works two jobs and lives at home to make ends meet. She is borrowing as little as possible while obtaining her bachelors degree. However, if congress doesn't figure out the interest rate 'mess,' my daughter may be forced to take longer getting her degree and may have to look for a full-time employment to help pay for it, as not to incur a large debt. 

I wish I was an independently wealthy parent, who was able to put enough aside for college, as my daughter was growing up. Yet, as most parents, I struggled to keep a roof-over-her-head and food-on-the-table all-the-while paying payment for those ever-so-needed braces and drivers education lessons.

In 1972, Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) stated that "the strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total of the education and the character of our people," and it was also recorded that she stated "any student with the talent, desire, and drive should be able to pursue higher education (Equal Justice Works, 2012)." The question remains - can a student continue afford to pursue higher education?

Nevertheless, there are organizations taking a completely different approach to solve the soaring costs of a higher education. They are not looking to the government for a handout or a solution. They are working to create one for future generations. They are private foundations that are making, funding and encouraging innovative solutions to the 'government' created debacle. One of those organizations is The Gates Foundation, who just recently awarded $9 million dollars to the online exploration and creation for future degrees (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2012). 

In addition, there is already a university, University of the People,> where a degree can be obtained for free or almost free. This type of education has been dubbed 'crowd-sourcing' an education, like information is done on Wikipedia or ratings are done on Amazon (Jelski, 2012). There is a list of over a dozen places to educate yourself online for free at Marc and Angel Hack Life, but the complete list of these 'crowd-sourcing' resources existes at Open Courseware (OCW) Consortium (Hack, 2010; Hammond, 2012). While there is some debate on the future of postsecondary education costs, I have a tendency to watch were monies are being invested for the future of education. Furthermore, I do know that many do not want to think about the possibility of a 'free' education. They are, to be cliche, like the ostridge sticking it's head in the sand, if they don't see it coming they don't have to worry about it.  

Even though I know a 'free' education is going to be in the future for postsecondary academia competing with the traditional education path, I still have a few concerns.

  • How are employers going to accept a 'free' degree on a resumé? 
  • Will the 'crowd-sourcing' degree be monitored?
  • Will employers accept a 'crowd-sourcing' degree testing system like Smarterer (Landry, 2012)?
  • Will a 'free' degree be tested completely on critical thinking skills like Udacity (Landry, 2012)? 
  • Will a 'crowd-sourcing' degree be sought after more than a traditional degree path or vice-versa?
  • Do students want to acquire an education taught completely by volunteers?
  • How will the instructors of the 'free' universities afford to make a living?
  • Because teaching online can be time consuming will these instructors need to work 24/7?

Education, in general, is in an enormous state of flux. Many people are wrestling with the same questions above. I just know that as a teacher, in the last five years, I have invested in myself over $75,000 to keep up with the changes in technology, Web 2.0, learning management systems, methodologies, etc. With this huge investment and a total of five degrees later, I still feel I do not know all there is to know, because education and technology are changing daily. Consequently, I hope my daughter is able to get her bachelor degree without as large of an investment. After her degree is completed, I hope she will be able to 'update' herself online and it will be accepted without an additional large investment on her part. But if congress, doesn't keep the current interest rates low, she may have a hard time just finishing the first degree on time without an abundance of debt. It is a good thing that education is in the state of flux. It needs to change.

References for this Blog Post:
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2012, June 19). Gates foundation announces $9 million in grants to support breakthrough learning models in Postsecondary education. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from
Equal Justice Works (2012, June 27). U.S. News and World Reports: Education - Student loan ranger: Two longstanding programs that still help college students. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from
Hack, Marc (2010, November 15). Twelve dozen places to self-educate yourself online. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from
Hammond, Larissa (2012, April 12). The future is (almost) now: free college. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from
Hopkins, Katy (2012, June 16). U.S. News and World Reports: Education - Student loan changes: What you need to know now. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from
Jelski, Daniel (2012, January 19). Forbes: A free college education for all. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from
Johnson, Steven R. (2012, June 28). Clock continues to tick on student loan interest rate extension. Progress Illinois. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from
Landry, Lauren (2012, June 26). BostInno: Will employers ever take online learning seriously. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from
Puckett, Elizabeth L. (2012, April 23). College classes: Are free online classes the future of higher education. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recycling, Recycling Everywhere

Wow! Where to begin, let’s see, we know everyone is going ‘green’ today and that, for the most part, is a good thing. However, Kermit had it right years ago when he stated, “It's not easy bein' green (Mander, 2011).” As of January first, the state of Indiana and approximately twenty-seven other states have banned the disposal of electronics in the trash (AP, 2011). These laws have been put into place to encourage recycling of all electronic material (Indiana, 2010). Well, how many of you heard about this on the mainstream news? Is that silence I hear or were you shaking your head no? You are not the only one. Many of my coworkers and the general public that I surveyed did not even know that the law had gone into effect. The only agencies that have been reporting on it or giving it any kind of press have been the local newspapers. So if your New Year resolution was to clean out that closet or organize the family room has not come to pass, it may have been a good thing.

Why is this new law being imposed? For the state of Indiana, it all began back in July 2009 when legislature enacted Indiana Electronic Waste Program (IC 13-20.5) and the second phase was completed January 1, 2011 (Indiana, 2010). It appears our electronics have some fairly deadly chemicals (lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium) in them and when they are thrown into the landfill they can leach into our water supply. I personally don’t want a little mercury to drink with my dinner tonight. Do you? In addition, there is a shortage of some of the metals contained within our electronics, specifically copper, so any and all that we can retain for reuse will help keep the costs down on these metals and ultimately keep the costs down on our electronics (Carpenter, 2010).

eCycle - this is the new term being used for proper disposal of all electronic equipment in the state of Indiana (Indianapolis, 2011). Kind of catchy and fun.

According to the EPA, our household consumption and disposal of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) has escalated since 1985 (EPA, 2010). In 1985, which was around the same time personal computers were beginning to enter the everyday household, we were only recycling 10.1% of our MSW (EPA, 2010). Fortunately as the years have passed, we have become educated on what of our waste does to the environment and we have learned to recycle more with each year that passes. In 2009, we recycled 33.8% of our MSW (EPA, 2010).

In the Electronic Waste Program Overview, it states in reference to Indiana Households, Public Schools and Small Businesses that the “beginning in 2011, Indiana covered entities are prohibited from disposing of e-waste in with their standard trash collection” (IDEM, 2010). Currently, in the state of Indiana, there is not a fine or a penalty for not recycling your electronics, however many believe that it will eventually come (Lewis, 2010).

So what is an educator to do, you ask? First, let me preface this by saying, I have never considered myself a tree hugger or an eco-freak, but I do suggest we begin by educating your students about the law and begin the discussion there. I took a moment this past week to do just that in my classroom and I received many different responses from shocked to outright cries of idiocy. Yet, no matter what the response may be, we must begin to educate them on their responsibilities as citizens, as consumers, as caretakers of the earth’s resources and as, in my case, young adults. We must help them to understand we need to begin now, begin small and begin with each home doing their part by recycling their electronics properly.

So just like Kermit, it isn't easy being green, but I'm working on it and I'm inviting you to do the same. Below is more information for further exploration on your own, but by no mean is it exhaustive. Hi-Ho!

Indiana Recycling
Indiana Government
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc.
Sustain Indy

Possible Disposal Sites for eCycling:

Central Indiana
South Belmont Collection Facility
2700 South Belmont
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9am-11am

IMPD Training Facility (located near Superior Court 13)
9049 East 10th Street
1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, 9am-2pm

Perry Township Government Center
4925 South Shelby Street
2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, 9am-2pm

Trader's Point Collection Facility
7550 North Lafayette Road
1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, 9am-2pm

Southern Indiana
Recycle Johnson County

C&I Electronics
1700 N. Lafayette Avenue
Evansville, Indiana, 47711
Office: 812-423-9166
Toll Free: 800-547-6188

For an extensive in depth listing of recycling and eCycling sites visit

References for this Blog Post:
Associated Press (2011, January 5). New laws boost electronics recycling: in 27 states, do not call your old computer ‘trash’. Retrieved February 1, 2011 from
Carpenter, Claudia (2010, December 7). Bloomberg: Copper faces two-year shortage, will peak over $10,000, Trafigura says. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from
City of Indianapolis (2011). Sustain Indy: eCycle. Retrieved February 1, 2011 from
EPA - United States Environmental Protection Agency (2010, December). Municipal solid waste generation, recycling and disposal in the United States: Facts and figures 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2011 from
IDEM - Indiana Department of Environmental Management (2010, December 8). Electronic waste program overview: Fact sheet. Retrieved February 1, 2011 from
Indiana General Assembly (2010). Table of contents: 2010 Enrolled acts. Retrieved February 1, 2011 from
IndyStar (2010, December 10). Where to recycle in Central Indiana. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from
Lewis, Brandon (2010, December 29). Gray Television, Inc.: New law bans electronics from trash. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from
Mander, Keith (2011, February 1). It isn’t easy being green: Song lyrics & words. Retrieved February 1, 2011, from