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Episode 122: Keeping Kids Safe on Social Media

It is a challenge facing many parents these days. How to keep kids safe on social media. On this episode of the Supercast, we have a candid conversation with one school psychologist who is working hard to educate parents and others about protecting kids and building trust when it comes to the safe and smart use of social media.


“Internet Safety for Our Children” Class
Thursday, Jan. 13, 7 – 8:30 p.m. | Rivers Edge School, 319 West 11000 South, South Jordan
Call to Register 801-565-7442


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello, and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It is a challenge facing many families these days, how to keep kids safe on social media. On this episode of the Supercast, we have a candid conversation with one school psychologist who's working hard to educate families and others about protecting kids and building trust when it comes to the safe and smart use of social media.

Anthony Godfrey:
We're here with Dustin Fullmer, school psychologist at Copper Hills High School, and also an instructor at the Jordan Family Ed Center, where Thursday, January 13th, from 7:00-8:30 PM, he's offering an internet safety class, a class that he offers every quarter. Dustin, thanks for talking with us.

Dustin Fullmer:
Thanks for having me here.

Anthony Godfrey:
Dustin, tell us, everyone's talking about social media right now. I think some really difficult things have been happening as a result of social media and it's increased stress across the board. No matter what your age. Tell me what you are talking about right now with social media. What are some of the things for us to be watching for and for parents and others to think about?

Dustin Fullmer:
Yeah, definitely. So social media is one of those things that's been a double edged sword in our society. Where it's great for connectivity. It's great for being able to keep in touch with people you love and hold dear to yourself and maybe don't see every day. But then yes, it's also leading to a lot of issues that we see constantly. Including things that we've seen this year, even in the schools with those different TikTok challenges of ransacking the school. Here at Copper Hills, where I'm a school psychologist, we even had a bathroom closed for almost two months, just because we had those issues with those challenges. And so I do in my class talk specifically about those types of things. By watching out for those different challenges, making sure that the things that your kids are accessing are positive and uplifting and not bringing them down or challenging them to do dangerous or just criminal kind of things. As well as just making sure that they understand the complexities of the internet because as we have more accessibility to it all, I think kids are losing touch a little bit with just what it is that is happening on there.

For example, some of the topics I cover in this class; I cover things such as you're not as anonymous as you think you are online. It's really easy to know exactly who it is that's posting things. Even if your username is something vague, it has nothing to do with your name. It's very easy to know who you are. That the internet also has the best memory out there. That things that are deleted and don't really stay deleted, that's stored somewhere out there. And so it's just good for kids to know these types of things and for parents to know that as well, to teach their kids about it. So that way maybe we make better decisions down the road.

Anthony Godfrey:
I have a 12 year old and I do try to have some controls in place, but I also worry that there are some things that I'm not doing that maybe I should be doing. What are some things that you advise parents to watch for when they want to be involved with social media and their child's interaction with others through social media?

Dustin Fullmer:
So the number one thing I try to promote with parents and their kids when it comes to internet access, social media is open communication. If we start the whole process of I'm gonna let you have X, Y, or Z account on this type of social media platform, then we need to have an understanding from the very get go that, you know, I'm allowed access to it. I need to be able to see what you're seeing, see what you're posting, see what you're involved with. Just to make sure that we're keeping those kinds of tabs. Allowing that little bit of trust to begin with and having that open communication of I'm going to let you have this, but you also need to know that there are things that I expect from you. Because when it comes to internet blockers and safety protocols and parental controls, kids are smart. And no matter how much you think you have things locked down, if a kid wants to be involved in something, they'll probably find a way around all those blockers. And so it's more about establishing expectations early, as far as what you expect from them and what they can expect from you if they don't follow up with that.

Anthony Godfrey:
So in other words, it's not necessarily enough to just rely on being able to block kids from accessing social media entirely, which is the case with my 12 year old. He gets some interaction in very limited ways, but like you're saying, it's difficult to really lock everything down entirely. And so talking about how to engage productively or appropriately is an important component to creating an approach.

Dustin Fullmer:
Yeah, definitely. And going back to the whole idea of the parental controls, like there are great resources in place. The people that made all the technology that we use today, they understand the risks of using those things, as well as just the kinds of negative side effects that can come if we use it too much. And so they put in all these great controls. iPhones, for example, just Apple products in general, they've put into place that screen time setting, which can limit time specifically on different apps on your phone. It can also limit from certain time periods. Like let's say that you have a problem with a kid staying on their phone all night, not getting enough sleep. You can say in that screen time, you can set settings to where, you know, it can completely shut down their phone except for emergency phone calls throughout the night. But all in place can still cause problems if kids just are intent on getting access to things, unless you have established more of an open communication and open expectation kind of environment with them, like you said.

Anthony Godfrey:
One screen time feature that I'm very aware of is when I get a notice every week, about how much I've been spending on my phone as well. It can be a little surprising just how much time it takes up. What are some of the things that you would say to students about positive ways to engage in social media?

Dustin Fullmer:
And there are lots of ways. A couple years ago before where I started this class, I kind of got the inspiration from the push that was labeled #savethekids. I'm forgetting his name right now. I can look it up in a minute, but it was basically this whole movement of using social media for positivity. Where he was giving challenges to the students to, you know, post something real about your life. Because a lot of the time, you know, I have students come into my office all the time that they feel like they're not having as good of a life or not living up to the same kind of expectations or great adventures that their peers are doing because that's all they see on social media. Anyone that posts, they're typically gonna post all the fun stuff, they're not gonna post the things that went wrong over the weekend. They're gonna post the pictures of delicious food. They're gonna leave out the dishes that are piled up in the sink. They're gonna post the picture of them on the beach, but not mention how they also got stung by a jellyfish. So it is just kind of helping them be real. And if it can even just start with that one student saying, you know what, I had a hard day today, but I'm pushing through it and posting something like that on whatever social media platform they prefer. And just starting to be real and be supportive of others as well. And so it starts with one person and then it catches on. One good deed always motivates another one. And it's just about as long as you can be that person to start the domino effect of positivity in your little sphere of the social media world, then get it started.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay with us. When we come back more about keeping kids safe on social media.

Break:
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Anthony Godfrey:
How do you advise students to deal with negativity and destructive things that they might find on social media?

Dustin Fullmer:

So that's kind of a two part thing. I would encourage students that if they are finding that kind of stuff to number one, try to report it on the social media platform that they're seeing it on. But sometimes that stuff may not be able to be resolved on the platform itself, just depending on whether or not those that control it, see the things that are being posted as destructive or negative. But something else that when I'm encouraging the open conversation between student and parent is I also encourage a judgment free zone with that kind of stuff. Because there's all sorts of things, whether it be negative stuff on social media or other harmful things that we can find just on the internet, whether it be pornography or just really negative blogs, different anonymous types of chat rooms, anything like that, can definitely be rather negative and deterring to different people. And when it comes down to when that stuff happens, it needs to be a judgment free conversation. When we find out or when we approach somebody about that kind of stuff and they react with, “oh, that's so horrible. I can't believe you did that.”, we learn that we don't want to talk to that person again about it. And so it is from both directions where we want to be open with people around us. Like I am seeing this. And then if we're the ones receiving that someone come approaching us saying, ‘Hey, I'm seeing this not so great stuff’, then we need to approach it with “Okay. How did it happen? How can I help you? How can I help you find more positive things? Or what do we need to do to avoid the negative? Or what do we need to do to make sure that doesn't happen again?” And that judgment free kind of response will elicit more open conversation from both sides.

Anthony Godfrey:
What advice do you give when students encounter cyber bullying?

Dustin Fullmer:
So that is a hard one. That's something that kids these days have to face that we didn't have to face back when we were in school. Because you know, to sound all a little bit older than the kids these days, I get to say, you know, back in my day, if bullying was happening to me, then I got to go home and it stayed at school. But some of these kids have to endure not only it happening potentially in the school, but when they go home, it follows them. Depending on what social media platforms they're on and who they're connected with. We do see those cases here in the high school. What I urge kids to do is if they, especially if they know that it's another student at the school they attend, then bring it to the school's attention. Bring it to the administration, bring it to our student resource officer, depending on the severity, because we have ways of finding out like, you know, what's being posted, who's posting it and we can resolve it in house. And if it's someone that's not necessarily in the school, then still, if it's severe enough, then you know, try to take those preventative measures of blocking those people that you're receiving that negativity from. But also make sure to let people know. Don't just try to handle it on your own. You know, you can definitely feel like sometimes you might be burning others or you might feel like others might think it's not that big of a deal if you bring their attention to the cyber bullying you're experiencing. But it's important to let others know, that way it can be resolved and or avoided.

Anthony Godfrey:
Let's talk about some of the positive things that can happen as a result of social media. You mentioned, save the children, the hashtag focused on posting. What are some other positive things about social media that can be emphasized perhaps if students are engaging on social media.

Dustin Fullmer:
So there are plenty of different pages that you can follow, whether it be TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, et cetera, whatever it is that you feel that you like. There are lots of positive pages, accounts, et cetera, that you can follow for daily motivation, for daily meditation, for just daily mental health tips. You just have to look for it. So that there's plenty of things out there that can just help boost yourself if you wanna have those things be a positive light in your day. And then also you can be that for other people too. You can post different things that are real to who you are and make sure that people see you for who you are. And also just maybe if you see somebody post a picture, give 'em a compliment. If you see somebody like posting something about how they did something, like it, post a comment saying good job, and move on. The thing that we seem to think a lot these days is that everyone wants to hear our opinion. And that's where a lot of the negative things come from social media. If we can turn that around and just share positive comments, positive opinions, that's where we can start spreading a little bit more of the positivity and just good that we all have.

Anthony Godfrey:
And that is an opportunity that sometimes is overlooked that we can actively look for ways to reinforce folks, and you mentioned it earlier as well. We can reinforce each other and, and provide positive comments. I read something once where the suggestion was, don't just give a thumbs up, challenge yourself to always comment if you interact with a post. And what I found is that with the people that I do care about that I'm connected to on social media, my level of interaction was deeper and more satisfying because I was actually posting positivity instead of just doing the quick thumbs up.

Dustin Fullmer:
Yeah, and it's important too, because one of the things that's happened, especially these last few years is that, you know, we've been a lot more isolated where we're not necessarily seeing people in person as much as we would like to. And so it seems like really convenient that we have all the social media to stay connected. But like you said, if all our connection is, is giving that occasional thumbs up, heart, whatever it may be, then how much are we actually connecting with people? If we take that extra step to really reach out to them with words, then we can do a lot more connecting.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the questions that you commonly hear asked in your internet safety class?

Dustin Fullmer:
Mostly just what can I do to help my kid that's already struggling improve with their internet usage. A lot of the time I get a lot of feedback from parents saying that kids are on their different technological devices, internet, social media, way too much. And it's distracting them from school work or real work, or just interacting with people around them. Honestly, my response is kind of similar to what I've said a lot of already, of just having those real conversations with them about, you know, what is happening there. And even if it helps, you know, letting them know like the psychological and physical effects that can happen, if that's all you're doing is being on devices, because there are some real effects. Studies have shown that if we're too addicted, to throw that word in, to technology, social media, our devices, then we can start seeing real signs of depression, high anxiety, and also physical symptoms like obesity and lethargic mood and having a lack of energy as well. So it's about helping them realize what kind of effects it can have on them as well as just kind of having the conversation of what is too much and what is expected of them just to kind of exist in their life. And what it is that they need to be doing to be successful and continue moving forward.

Anthony Godfrey:
You mentioned earlier the social media challenges that are particularly destructive and dangerous. What advice do you give around those trends?

Dustin Fullmer:
A reminder that a moment of clout on a social media platform is not worth a permanent record. When it comes to especially some of the more destructive challenges that were happening towards the beginning of the school year, if those were to rear their ugly heads again, what a lot of people don't realize is that depending on what it is exactly that you're doing to public property or whatever, you may end up having a criminal record. And that's true for a lot of different things that can happen on social media. A lot of people, whether they be kids or older, feel this real sense of anonymity behind the screen, where they can get away with these different things. But when it comes down to it, it's rather easy to know exactly who you are and what you did. And it's not worth that moment of clout on a social media platform for that permanent record that can really affect your future.

Anthony Godfrey:
So maybe a good rule of thumb is to think, would I do this in person? And if not, let's not do it online.

Dustin Fullmer:
Yeah, definitely because a lot of us know that person, or maybe some of us know that person, that is a real delight in person when we talk to them and we're face to face, they're just a real pleasant, just human being to be around. But maybe then we see some comments that they post on social media and we're like, wow, that is a lot of anger, or that's a lot of strong opinions that this individual has. And you just wonder, you know, what's the disconnect there. And that's something to remember, like you said, if you're in person, would you do this, the exact same thing, if you were actually face to face with this person, would you say these things.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you very much for your time. Tell everyone again when the class is offered and how they can get signed up for it.

Dustin Fullmer:
Definitely. So the next class is this Thursday, January 13th, from 7:00 to 8:30 PM. It is at the Jordan Family Education Center. You can sign up just by giving them a phone call and saying that you'd like to go to the Timely Topics for Internet Safety. And we'll definitely have some space for you there to have a more open discussion about maybe what you need help with as well.

Anthony Godfrey:
We'll have that phone number in the show notes so folks can call that and get signed up if they'd like to, for Thursday, January 13th. There'll also be another offering later in the year. Thank you very, very much for everything you're doing to help support students and families, and for taking time with us today. Dustin.

Dustin Fullmer:
Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to do it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

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