Getting the Green Light for Internet Safety

With more than 75 percent of grade school students and 96 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds using social media networks, it’s important that parents know how to talk to children about online safety before they make a damaging mistake with lasting consequences.

In order to keep Catholic school students safe and to give parents a proactive way to start a dialogue with their children about making smart social media choices, the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence brought Josh Ochs, a nationally-renowned social media safety speaker, to three local Catholic schools in early March.

Ochs started his career at Walt Disney Studios, where he learned how to market products as valuable to consumers. Next, he ran for city council in Hermosa Beach, California. Although he lost the election, Ochs’ positive campaign sparked the interest of big brands, and in 2010, he launched a public speaking business.

“I ended up traveling the country teaching brands how to shine online, how to be light, bright and polite. I wrote a book about it,” Ochs said. “Then there was an interest in teaching students how to be positive on social media, and then the rest took over from there.”

While in Minnesota, Ochs spoke to parents at St. John the Baptist in Savage, Annunciation in Minneapolis, and St. Croix Catholic in Stillwater. More than 300 parents total attended one of three seminars to learn more about social media safety and how to help their children use social media to impress colleges and future employers.

First, Ochs discussed the latest apps children use, placing them in three zones: green, grey and red. With proper guidance from parents, children can use green zone apps to establish a positive online presence, Ochs said. Grey zone apps are trickier.

“Grey zone [apps] are places where your kids want to hang out, but you have to talk with them about wisdom online, because if they’re anything less than wise on their posts, they can get in trouble,” Ochs said. He added that red zone apps should be off-limits.

“The red zone apps typically are the anonymous apps. They have predators. They have bullying. They have all kinds of things where the student is not quite mature enough to understand the complexities of what’s happening,” Ochs said. “And there is no upside that outweighs the very, very bad downside in the red zone.”

During the seminars, Ochs offered three steps parents can take to help their children use digital tools to shine online:

  1. Audit your children: Search for your children online using Google and other free tools.
  2. Dialogue: Talk to your children about their online presence and how they are using it to move toward the college, career and life of their dreams.
  3. Create positive content: Help your children flood the Internet with positive content that will impress college admissions committees and employers.

To learn more about Ochs and his message, visit his website www.safesmartsocial.com, or purchase a copy of his book, “Light, Bright & Polite” at http://amzn.to/2oE52X0. A video recording of his seminar at St. Croix Catholic is also available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/8qxQna-PpqU.

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