The parents of current Verbum Dei students are encouraged to attend parent meetings held monthly on campus. In addition to earning service hours for their attendance, the parents benefit from increasing their knowledge ability on a wide range of topics focused on their son’s learning experience at Verbum Dei. In October, the Technology Department was asked to host the meeting, the topic being “Life of a Teenage Boy in the Age of Technology.”
The topic was rather open-ended, but I wanted the meeting to be more informational than philosophical, so I narrowed my discussion to focus on student online activity and the ramifications of questionable online behavior. Primarily, I wanted the parents to know about everyone’s “Digital Footprint” and what that entails. I wanted them to know that – in reality – their boys probably don’t understand that everything they do online is essentially permanent and forever. They may think the activities they do online are private, but they’re not. Everything they do online is tracked, saved and retrievable. Also, I wanted them to know that even colleges – when reviewing applications– often investigates applicant’s online usage to get a gauge for that students personality and behavior. It was my impression that some the parents in attendance were not fully aware of these practices. Even though these were alarming facts, I felt alerting them to these actions was hugely beneficial. I then went on to talk about cellular phone usage and the countless apps today’s teens are using with regularity. I provided general information in a handout that detailed some of the more nefarious apps many teens use with regularity. As an example, I used the popular Snapchat app to bring to light the idea – and dangers – of our Digital Footprint. Teens may think their photos and videos in Snapchat delete when intended (and they do). But what they don’t know is that the Meta Data (vital information about the posting) is saved. There were several shocked faces in the room when I informed them of this, but – again – I felt the information held value.
It was gratifying to have several parents in attendance who spoke to their own teen’s online activity and what they do to protect their kids. The end of my discussion focused on beneficial apps for parents, and several parents mentioned they used those apps to protect and monitor their kids’ online activity. Afterwards, when the meeting was over, a group of attendees came up to me and expressed thanks for informing them about the dangers – and benefits of online activity. Even though the news was not always good, it’s always best to be informed.