Recently I had the opportunity to present to the members of a fantastic organization called OASSA – Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators (see resources).
The two day workshop was created specifically for assistant principals and principals of middle schools and high schools who attended the event from every corner of Ohio. I delivered my presentation called: “Students’ Real Digital Lives” which aims to educate school administrators on the realities of the digital lives of students from K-12.
I meet tens of thousands of students each year (2015’s current estimate is 65k) and I track 24 pieces of data per child, per school times the number of years I’ve been on the road. I’m not going to do the math but let’s just agree that it’s a lot of data.
Beyond the data, I have had the opportunity to have meaningful discussions with these students; I get to know them for just a brief moment. They share their stories with me. Many of those stories weigh on my heart, and there are specific faces I will never forget.
The least you should know right now
Here’s an abbreviated version of what I’ve learned over the years and I shared with the administrators at the OASSA event: (Parents see #1 in resources below)
- Children are consuming vast amounts of pornography, consistently, beginning at 8 years old.
- The new age of onset of pornography addiction is 11 years old.
- Tweens and teens are using so-called “dating apps” and putting themselves at grave risk of becoming the victim of a sexual predator.
- Sexting is beginning in the 4th and 5th grades – consistently.
- 4th, 5th, and 6th graders are behaving in far riskier ways than their 7th, 8th, or 9th grade friends or siblings.
- Cyberbullying is pervasive across all platforms and channels, so much so that children are not recognizing it as cyberbullying. It has become the “new normal”.
This is the essence of what I shared with the attendees at the OASSA event, along with very specific guidance on particular apps and the new and coming cooties – there are too many to count sometimes.
Overall the event was a success; I had a great time, the audience was terrific and I left. That was it.
Militant? Moi? Oh, DO go on….
However TODAY I was thrilled to find a very unsolicited and very honest “review” of my presentation to OASSA by one of the attendees: Mr. Ned Lauver, the Assistant Principal of Westlake High School which is arguably one of the highest performing school districts in Ohio.
Ned Lauver has an education blog at www.nedlauvereducation.com.The blog’s tagline is “Educate the Whole Child”.
Ned wrote a blog post called “Internet Safety: Staying in Touch Amidst Constant Change” about constant digital connectivity and the potential dark side of always-on digital communication. He has this to say about my presentation:
One of the most interesting sessions at the conference I am attending today and tomorrow was entitled “Students’ Real Digital Lives” featuring speaker Jesse Weinberger. Even though I know about many of the new apps and trends currently making the rounds, I am no longer an “early adopter” (or an ever adopter, for that matter – who has the time once you’ve got young children?) and needed a refresher course. Ms. Weinberger can come off as a little militant at first, but one very quickly realizes that she really has seen it all (or will as soon as the next trendy app is released) and knows just as much.
Her website is Overnight Geek University, where she maintains an updated blog, and her Facebook page (OvernightGeekUniversity) is just as interesting. Taken with a grain of salt (it’s a little alarmist, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s wrong), it appears to be a solid resource for staying abreast of the latest trends in Internet safety and social media.
Why the sense of urgency
He’s right of course; Ned I mean. He’s totally right. I AM militant, I even wear knee high combat boots as a general rule (that’s 100% true).
I take “militant” as a compliment, I take it as a reflection of the fact that my passion for keeping these children safe has bubbled over into grabbing students, parents, and school staff by the scruff of the neck and forcing them to see what I see. I take “militant” to mean that I’m going to act, immediately, with disciplined precision and without pause (but with a significant amount of fear).But perhaps most importantly I take “militant” to mean that I am going to act and speak in defense of those who either cannot speak for themselves or don’t realize that they are at risk in the first place.
His review moved me – if only because I felt like my new BFF Ned – really “got me” in that Sally Field sort of “You get me, you really really get me!” way. I’m not entirely sure if Ned meant it as a compliment, but I have chosen to receive it as my 2nd favorite review* (see #4 resources below).
I was so excited about Ned’s blog post that I responded to it by way of a comment. You can find the entire post along with my comment on Ned’s blog. Here’s an excerpt:
Hello Ned! I found this blog post about me quite by accident; I was the presenter you’re referring to in your blog post. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hear that your first reaction to my presentation was “militant” – that actually made my day! (Hey, I don’t wear 14 eye knee-high Doc Marten WWI British Army boots for nothing!)
But you have the right of it, and your assessment is on the money: the nature of my presentation is alarming AND true. Just as an example….since my presentation to OASSA, I have been to three more schools where: one 7th grade girl asked me for help with a sexual predator who now had her home address and school information AND one 6th grade boy asked me for help with his pornography addiction.
Here’s another example from two days ago. I give all of my student-attendees an anonymous exit survey. The first question asks: “What will you now change about your digital behavior as a result of this presentation?”. A 6th grade girl answered: “I met a boy on Instagram and I was going to go meet him IRL (“in real life”) but now I decided not to.” Based on what I’ve seen consistently, I can unequivocally guarantee you that the person this little girl would have met up with in the real world, would NOT have been another 6th grader – but rather a grown-up sexual predator.
Thank you so much for your assessment and appreciation; including your call for a “grain of salt”. Critical consumption of content is not something I encounter among my students (or their parents) very often. It’s refreshing. EVERYONE should look at all media, opinion, and news with a skeptical eye. This generation of children has NO idea how to do that or even what it means to think deeply or critically. This thought keeps me up at night, quite literally.
Signed, Your Militant Friend aka “Big Mama” -Jesse Weinberger
- *Parents: YES this includes YOUR children regardless of: local crime rates, socioeconomic levels, expensive private school or parochial versus public inner-city, or any other demographic variable.
- Are you an educator? Do yourself a favor and follow Ned Lauver’s Blog! http://www.nedlauvereducation.com/
- Are you a employed by a middle level, secondary school, or district office under an administrative contract in Ohio? If so – you should really consider joining OASSA. They have amazing resources for members – plus you get to see *amazing* presenters (like me!). Learn more about membership here: http://www.oassa.org/
- My 1st favorite review came from an 11th grade boy with tons of attitude who shook my hand after the presentation and told me that I had changed his entire outlook on life. I’m not sure how he got THERE from “don’t take a picture of your junk and send it to 85 of your friends”, but I’ll take it. Maybe he just liked my boots.
Jesse "Big Mama" Weinberger is an Internet Safety Speaker for schools, the host of the Internet Safety Podcast: Big Mama's House Podcast, and the author of The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s In Your Child’s Back Pocket; a guide for parents and educators on how to keep children safe in a 24-7 always connected digital society. Learn more about how to keep your children safe online. She has been teaching parents, schools, and students how to navigate online and mobile risks since 2003. Jesse is available for internet safety presentations to schools, parents, students, and organizations all over the United States.