By Amy Kaminsky
The Patriot Oaks Academy gym was packed with screaming middle school students. The music blared. Kids danced, then ran, then cheered. An outsider never would have guessed the preteens and teens had filled the gymnasium to learn about the risks of social media, the perils of bullying and the importance of finding the courage to lead.
When you see somebody being bullied, “…you are given opportunity to truly make a difference in the life of someone else,” said Jerry Ackerman, youth coach, teacher and guest speaker at the event.
Ackerman travels across the country talking about the dangers of social media to students and their parents. His presentations also cover bullying and cyberbullying. Ackerman warned the students that everything they post online is permanent and available to strangers all over the globe forever.
He also tackled the topic of bullying by telling the students that almost one half of all fourth through 12th graders in our country have been bullied in the past month — but he added that bystanders who stick up for victims can help end the bullying within 10 seconds.
Parents’ jaws dropped at an evening assembly when Ackerman spelled out exactly what their children are encountering on social media. He shared several apps that he believes can lead to trouble for children, including the AfterSchool app, ThumbsDown and Snapchat.
Then, he gave parents weapons to combat online trouble. The Circle device made by Disney, for sale online, helps parents set time limits and content restrictions on anything connected to wifi in the home. Ourpact is another app that controls screen time and even has a chore list feature. Covenant Eyes is an app that gives parents a daily report of a child’s online activity.
He shared the technology rules he and his wife put in place for the five children in his family. In his home, the parents have access to every account their children are accessing. Ackerman reminded parents that their children are growing up in a very different world than they did. Technology can be a wonderful tool, but parents must navigate the online world alongside their children.
“You are smarter than your children,” he said. “You have life experience. Don’t forget that.”
Photo courtesy Amy Kaminsky
Jerry Ackerman gets the crowd up on their feet during an assembly about finding the courage to be a leader.