Technology is their thing, and we want them to utilize it. As parents, you guide them and set boundaries. Help them so they can soar while they use technologies. —Jackie Leavitt
MURRAY — Many children send text messages, play on iPads and often surf the Internet. Now parents who feel left behind have a new tool to help themselves by monitoring what their children are doing.
The Internet Keep Safe Coalition, or iKeepSafe, announced a new parent tool kit designed to help parents stay current on cyberbullying, digital addictions as well as discussing Internet responsibility and ethics.
Jackie Leavitt, founder and chairwoman of iKeepSafe and wife of former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, said the group is putting free and valuable information at parent's fingertips.
"We want parents to know how easily they can access these tools and resources so they can go right to where their question is," she said.
She said children use technology seven to eight hours a day, a number that's just going to increase.
"Technology is their thing, and we want them to utilize it," Leavitt said. "As parents, you guide them and set boundaries. Help them so they can soar while they use technologies."
A few resources in the tool kit include a parent's guide to Facebook, resources to keep current, and Google digital literacy tour content.
The tool kit also includes 3 KEEPs for Parents — Keep current, keep communicating and keep checking. The website encourages parents to "keep current with the technology your child uses keep communicating with your child about everything they experience on the Internet and keep checking your child's Internet activity."
Leavitt said when parents check on their children, it will help them learn what information and pictures to keep private.
"If you keep checking, it helps them understand and you can explain, 'We want your digital footprint and your digital reputation to be an asset, not a liability,'" she said.
iKeepSafe also suggests 3 Keeps for Kids — Keep safe, keep away and keep telling.
"Keep safe your personal information and your reputation, keep away from Internet bullies, and keep telling your parents or a trusted adult about everything you se on the Internet, cellphones, and game consoles."
Nikki Mackay, director of foster family retention, said the tool kit guides families through the ins and outs of digital citizenship. She said the resource goes beyond Internet predators.
She said the website has opened her eyes to what her own children do and what she should discuss with them.
"They're on the Internet, they're on all of these different technology tools, so how do we make sure they're using it the best way possible," she said.
Faith Spencer, mother of three children ages 18, 16 and 13, said communication about what's trending is one of the most important things a parent can do.
"Before I always felt that I was behind the eight-ball, or something would happen and then I'd have to punish or then establish controls," she said. "I found that if we could open the lines of communication and I was informed, then we could develop safe access rules and guidelines for them."
Michelle Ostmark has nine children living at her home, two are foster children and four are adopted. She said she feels a lot of kids try to hide the new technologies from their parents, making it important for parents to stay up to date.
When it comes to the Internet, she said she wants to set her kids up to leave a positive footprint in life, and not have things come back to haunt them later on.
"One of the biggest things is helping the kids who come into our home learn what's appropriate and what's not," Ostmark said.
Leavitt began the nonprofit iKeepSafe in 2000 and has since grown to an international alliance of policy leaders, educators, advocates and corporate partners.