“Seriously, Mom, you are the ONLY person in the WHOLE WORLD who even reads those terms of agreement!”
Omaha Mom Andrea’s tween whined these words to her as she told her “No,” again, in response to her request to sign up for TikTok.
The arguments over devices, apps, and screen time are probably the biggest stressor in the parent-tween/teen relationship these days. It can be incredibly challenging to keep up with the latest news on what is good, appropriate, and safe for our kids to use. Is Andrea the only person who actually reads an app’s terms of agreement? Well . . . she skims them so she can respond logically to her child.
As a parent of littles, Omaha Mom Sara can tell you she wants to bury her head in the sand on this topic—Swear off smartphones and the internet until they are 25 years old! However, in today’s world, especially during a pandemic-driven society, staving off global internet access and social media platforms is literally impossible. Kids are e-learning and receive iPads and laptops to take home with them. They must have an internet connection to complete schoolwork, while more adults are required to work remotely. There is no longer a world in which we can unplug enough to ensure complete safety.
How familiar are you with what is currently available in the app store or online?
Amino, 8Chan, Bee-bot, Discord, Dubsmash, Flickr, GroupMe, JibJab, Kik, Marco Polo, Oovoo, Parler, Remind, Skout, Telegram, TikTok, Viber, We Heart It, Whisper, YOLO . . . no we did not just hand over our keyboard to our toddler, these are just a few popular apps and platforms our kids have access to. Now, we’ll wait while you do a “quick” google search to determine if your child’s privacy and safety are secure on these platforms, all while they stand nagging you that “it’s not that big of a deal,” dinner is burning, and your toddler got ahold of the keyboard again . . . .
Smart GEN Society – empowering smart choices in a digital world
Luckily, there is an excellent resource available to families to help them understand our ever-changing digital environment. Smart Gen Society (SGS) is a non-profit organization based in Omaha, NE, that provides online resources and in-person presentations for students and parents. Founder and CEO Amie Konwinski has experience from the Navy, the Reserves, and in computer software programming. As a mother, Amie recognized the challenges families face with navigating and making smart digital choices. She founded Smart GEN Society with the mission to “. . . protect and empower today’s students and families to think critically about their digital usage, while maintaining their privacy and safety, and protecting their social, emotional, and mental well-being. SGS’s goal is to reduce digital-based anxieties, prevent peer and predator exploitation, and ensure online safety and privacy.”
As a teacher, OM Andrea has attended SGS presentations at her school. She was impressed with Amie’s straightforward, no-nonsense way of talking to the students. Amie discussed the importance of personal branding and how anytime a person participates in an online activity, they build their brand. She was not preachy; she didn’t tell students they were wrong to use certain apps or gaming. She did explain how most of the social apps are rated for age 13+ because they collect the user’s data, often for profit. She explained the COPPA law, which aims to prevent companies from collecting data of users under the age of 13, and how the Terms of Service might tell you whether an app is COPPA compliant or not. Amie also clearly addressed the impact that online posts and activity can have on a user’s mental health. SGS frequently promotes “JOMO”—the Joy Of Missing Out—by encouraging people to put down the device and go “off-grid” for a bit.
If, like OM Sara, you’re terrified of what the future holds for your tiny tots or are currently in OM Andrea’s position and dealing with the myriad of unidentifiable apps on your tween’s and teen’s phones right now, what we are about to share with you might seem like a warm, comforting hug.
SGS helps parents like you by placing the power of knowledge into your capable, safe, parental hands.
Visit the SGS website, www.smartgensociety.org. Even the most with-it, tech-savvy parent needs some help navigating the always-changing online trends. We are so relieved that an organization like SGS exists. SGS does the research you don’t have the time, or perhaps the know-how, to do. Their offerings are vast—from learning about how different apps work, to education on healthy tech usage, to their partnership with the FBI and local law enforcement to help with major online issues and problems!
Smart GEN Society is here to help empower families to make smart digital choices.
LIVE Discussion with Smart GEN Society
Andrea is an Omaha native who, like so many others, spent some time away but was called back 'home' when she started her family. She and her husband have 3 daughters, ages 10, 9, and 7. Andrea teaches 5th and 6th grade Reading and Writing and gets to spend summers as a stay-at-home mom. She is also going back to school herself, pursuing a degree in School Library/Media. She enjoys reading, baking, and any activity that means time with family or friends.Sara is a career child welfare worker turned career mama. After having their first child, Marian (Feb 2017), she realized her true calling in life was to mom and mom hard! Sara resides with her husband, Blake, and daughter in West Omaha. They welcomed their second child, Henry, August 2019. Sara is a Nebraska transplant from Iowa while Blake grew up in Bellevue, NE. She has a professional background in child development, psychology, and human services, and puts these degrees to use everyday in raising her children. Sara is a staunch believer in only being able to care for others when you also care for yourself. When she’s not momming, she can be found reading books from a book club she co-leads, cooking, or crafting.