Tuesday, 27 January 2015 17:11

Ushering Wind(s) of change online

Written by  Lori Helms

Mooresville mom offers cyber awareness program for parents of the 'Like' generation.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Susan Wind doesn't like to offer parenting advice.
That can be a tough personal standard to meet, especially when you're the mother of three kids.
And a professor.
And a consultant.
And a published criminal justice research expert.
And a former juvenile parole officer.
Clearly, this Mooresville mom is equipped to shell out some nuggets of knowledge here and there, but, no, she says giving parents advice makes her uncomfortable.

However, she's more than happy to trade a nagging "told you so" tidbits for tools that parents can actually use to help navigate the very overwhelming cyber world in which their children dwell — a social media universe in which apps, tweets, posts, "likes" and supposed friends orbit around them like menacing meteors that could, with one tap on a screen, destroy friendships, futures and families.

Wind, a financial and cyber crime consultant who holds a master's degree in criminal justice from Rutgers University, has established a series of cyber bullying educational seminars for parents and children called Parents Know More.

After years of providing cyber crime consulting and training for financial institutions across the U.S., Wind has recently trained her focus and research on helping businesses, schools, parents, students and other community groups to recognize cyber bullying, understand its ramifications and act to combat it.

"I have a pre-teen and a teenager, and I am constantly living through their eyes," Wind says about observing her children's Internet habits. "They are obsessed with social media."

While parents may think they know what their kids are up to online because they either monitor their time in the ether or cruise through their kids' texts every night, Wind says she's amazed at just what parents don't know.
And what they don't know can be dangerous.

Like the fact that just because your child deleted a "questionable" item from her phone, it's still floating around out there.

Like the fact that students have lost college scholarships over inappropriate posts and pictures their future school found when researching the rising freshman's online life.

Like the fact that a 16- or 17-year-old's "sexting" antics can result in a conviction that lands him on the registered sex offender list.

"This is a beast for us," she says as both a parent and an educator.

With her years of experience in different facets of the criminal justice system and training businesses how to deal with cybercrimes and social media workplace policies, it was actually her son's sixth grade science experiment last fall that really got her thinking about how to apply what she knows to those who clearly need it most — parents who were not born with a smartphone in their hand.

His project was called "The 'Like' Generation Experiment," in which he studied the types of posts and pictures on various social media sites that seemed to generate the most "likes."

He didn't win the prize in his science fair category, but Wind says his premise that such things matter to kids really got her thinking. Things like tweets, posts on Facebook, Instagram photos or Snapchats that disappear in a matter of seconds (or do they?) seem so trivial to most parents, but parents be warned.

"It absolutely does matter," she says, adding that her research shows just how very vain and needy children have become in an ever more — or maybe too — connected world.

Since it's impossible to un-ring that Internet bell, Wind suggests parents arm themselves with the information they need to stay savvy about what their child is up to, and for that same child to stay safe in cyberspace.

Wind held her first parent seminar at Pine Lake Preparatory School in Mooresville earlier this week, and she will follow that up with a student assembly at the school on Friday. Regardless of her audience, her seminars and programs will include a broad range of material, such as:

• Case studies on cyber bullying and the legal ramifications to both parents and teens.

• Current apps teenagers are using, and where to find them on a child's devices.

• How to track children online and monitor their devices.

• The dangers of social media websites.

• Terminology and trends in online communications.

The Parents Know More program differs from some of the other educational offerings available out there, says Wind, in that most are usually conducted as a cursory review by a visiting law enforcement officer, or in some cases, the actual victim of a cyber bullying attack or the victim's family.

While instructive, Wind says there is a clear need for more detailed information and resources — largely targeted at parents — to fight what she calls a battle of "social warfare" that is taking away time and attention from life's more important pursuits and responsibilities.

And as Wind's seminars and programs take off, they will also give back. Through partnerships with charitable organizations she continues to develop, she will donate 10 percent of her Parents Know More proceeds toward awareness of anti-cyber bullying efforts.

"Eighty-five percent of kids see bullying every day," she says. "I want to reward kids who report it, who stop it, who are doing the right thing."

Rewards could come in the form of covering the costs to sign up for a recreational sport, music instruction, a new hobby or some other outlet that would provide a new focus and new friends, especially for a cyber bullying victim.

Whether it's teaching a parent what MOS or KPC mean in chat slang, or guiding them toward apps that can track their child's virtual breadcrumb trail, Wind says it all comes down to getting smart about smart technology.

"The average person is not educated when it comes to cyber life," she says. "As parents, we need to step it up. ... We can't stop this technology, so we just have to get on top of it."

1 comment

  • Comment Link Brian Webb Thursday, 12 November 2015 10:57 posted by Brian Webb

    I went to Susan's seminar at my kids' high school this week. Wow! Eye-opener! A definite parent must hear event.


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