Parents asked to discuss phones and online habits with their children

By Jeff Smith


According to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of teens have access to a smartphone.

Hollie Strand, computer forensic examiner for the Internet Crimes Against Children task force said only a small percentage of students had smartphones prior to 2012.

It was evident in her talk to parents who have students at Hill City school district on Nov. 14 that there is danger lurking almost everywhere online.

Access to smartphones and technology in general has added to the danger.

Strand noted there has to be a balance with technology. Students can learn how to code on programs and it’s utilized a lot for homework assignments.

It’s nearly impossible to keep children away from technology entirely.

Strand told the audience to know and appreciate technology, but not be crippled by it.

“Technology moves fast. We have to move fast or faster,” Strand said.

Electronics have also been called “digital heroin.”

Digital heroin is where children who are mild-mannered become “creatures to be reckoned with” when electronics are taken away.

When any type of child picks up electronics and uses them for an extended period of time they have a heightened activity in pleasure centers of the brain.

“When we take it away what happens? Oh, they freak,” Strand said.

“They actually go through withdrawal similar to heroin withdrawal.”

Her own children are only allowed 20 minutes of “electronics time” at home. She prefers that they would go outside and play. 

Strand said there is a whole generation of children now who can’t do anything without a device because it’s their only source of dopamine or where they get their increase of pleasure.

One of Strand’s points was that what teens and other students do online stays with them.

“We have to have the mindset that everything is documented,” Strand said.

Strand also said that if people take photos that they don’t want to share with everyone, they shouldn’t be taken.

She said people pick the life they want five seconds, five minutes, five hours and five days from now.

She spoke about emotional reasoning and how a feeling at a certain moment is accepted as truth.

“When we are hungry, lonely, angry and tired we are stupid,” Strand said.

Strand also mentioned how teens don’t have the best sense of judgement. The prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that helps curb impulsive behavior— is not fully developed until 25.

Strand stresses with the students she talks to that parents are not the enemy.

Information someone has online on them is referred to as a digital footprint. Strand said that if students wouldn’t want parents to see it, they don’t want interviewers for colleges or jobs seeing it either.

“If you’re hiding it from your parents it’s not your parents you should be worried about,” Strand said.

Strand said it might come to the point where job interviews won’t be done until someone passes a digital background check.

Back in the day there was a filter of what students had because parents could check their backpack. But because of phones teens have access to a lot of stuff that parents might not know about.

Most parents are familiar with bullying or have been victims of bullying themselves. There is also cyberbullying which is a lot different from what bullies did back when many parents were in school. Strand said cyberbullying spreads faster, there is a wider audience, it follows children home and it becomes part of their digital footprint.

Strand said it’s important to start a conversation. Communication is key when it comes to cyber bullies and online predators. Such words parents could hear that might alarm them is if their children say that they have been talking to friends out of the area or people online are offering them gifts or money.

Similar to education, protecting children from what’s online takes a village.

“With online stuff we hear rumors before we see anything, as parents,” Strand said