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Parents invited to 'plug in'

Doreen Dodgen-Magee will speak to parents about social media, online activity


Does it seem like your kids are always looking at a screen? Do you know how to ensure your kids are being safe online?

Parent groups at three of the West Linn-Wilsonville School District’s middle schools are co-sponsoring a parent education event focused on students’ use of social media and online activity, and they want to make sure every parent in the district is invited.

Dodgen-MageePresented by Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a licensed psychologist from Lake Oswego, “Plugged in” will give parents an overview of their students’ online experience. Dodgen-Magee will discuss the social dynamics among adolescents and young adults, discuss the impact of technology overuse and give parents ideas for effective role modeling.

Think of it as a Technology 101 course for parents, and expect to hear everything you need to know to make sure your pre-teens and young teens are using technology safely and effectively.

“Over the last 10 years, I have brought my interest in pop culture and technology to my love of good, high-quality research to try to understand how our digital experiences are shaping us,” said Dodgen-Magee, a mother of young adults who also has a private practice. “I feel strongly that adults need to understand the digital pools that young adults, adolescents and children are swimming in, and, from that place of understanding, have a responsibility to model and teach healthy ways of using technology.”

A popular speaker, Dodgen-Magee previously has spoken to parents at Rosemont Ridge Middle School, giving a version of her presentation last spring.

“We sent the flier to various principals. We had a decent turnout,” Holly Miller said. “This year we are more committed to working together” to increase attendance.

{img:30284}Miller is the president of the parent group at Rosemont Ridge and the parent of an eighth-grader and a sophomore. Her counterpart at Athey Creek, Saleen Chenevert, has children in seventh and fifth grades and kindergarten. Jennifer Butts has an eighth-grader at Athey and a fifth-grader at Three Rivers Charter School. All of them are motivated, in part, by a desire to draw together parents throughout the school district.

“It’s really important for all the schools to start working together,” Miller said.

“Having Doreen present to all (school) groups gives us common ground,” Chenevert said. “I like that it will be all the parents educated the same as they come into the high school.”

Part of Magee’s presentation will focus on how different children’s experiences are from their parents’.

“My middle school daughter’s friends come over and they all have a device,” Miller said.

In her presentation to Rosemont parents last year, Dodgen-Magee shared ideas for getting kids to unplug, at least temporarily. Miller said she has used those ideas successfully in her home.

“There are a lot of ways to go sideways with technology, but you’re not going to stop it,” Miller said. “This is their reality.”

“As parents we have all these talks with our kids,” Chenevert said.

Those talks begin in the toddler years with warnings about “stranger danger.” The problem is, when parents are not fully aware of the online options their children have, it’s difficult to ensure that kids have the knowledge and the tools to stay safe.

“What are our kids really doing?” Chenevert asked.

“What else is out there?” Butts added.

Dodgen-Magee spends time in the presentation familiarizing parents with the online options their children have. Parents generally are familiar with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

Fewer, however, were aware of sites like Kik, Snapchat and Chatroulette, when Dodgen-Magee mentioned them during her presentation at Rosemont Ridge.

“As a parent, I didn’t know whether to feel triumphant or nervous because I didn’t know what she was talking about,” Miller said. “All the parents in the room said, ‘What?’”

Magee’s response was startling.

“She said, ‘I guarantee your children have heard of it,” Miller said.

“Just because we don’t use it in our home doesn’t mean our kids are not exposed to it,” Chenevert said.

Although you may not allow your child to access a site like Snapchat or Chatroulette, you can’t be sure that he or she won’t sit next to a fellow student accessing the site.

This year the WL-WV School District is exposing students to the concept of digital citizenship and how to use technology the right way. The website commonsensemedia.org is one tool the district uses and recommends as a resource to families.

“I love that schools are doing Commonsense Media and Hour of Code,” Chenevert said, adding that some students may still be confused by the district’s message, however.

“On one hand, we’re saying, ‘Watch your technology.’ On the other hand, we’re saying, ‘Do more,’” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with having (devices),” Butts said. “But the entertainment factor is difficult to manage.”

Miller shared a technology success story to show how students can benefit. Her son had struggled with staying organized, she said. This year, when he got an iPhone, something clicked.

“The phone this year has revolutionized the way he organized,” she said. “I resisted for years, and it’s turned out to be a really powerful tool.”

Magee’s presentation will included positive information and strategies as well as warnings for parents, Miller said.

“It’s super fast-paced, very entertaining. She did a really good job of saying, ‘Here are the things to be aware of,’ in a cautionary way, but also, ‘Here are some neat things you should be aware of,’ ” she said. “At the end, you’re like, ‘That was two hours?’ I can’t say enough good things about her. I’m glad all the schools are working together. I hope we get a good turnout.”

Dodgen-Magee with be bringing copies of her book and other resources that will be available for purchase. She will also take questions after the presentation and will field personal inquiries from parents.

“She was very helpful with questions last time,” Miller said.

Parents of fifth-graders are especially encouraged to attend, Butts said. Although their use of technology may be limited now, that will change faster than many parents would believe.

“We would like our partners in the district to feel welcome at the event,” Chenevert said.

“We hope to see Wilsonville parents there. The use of technology is not limited to West Linn,” Miller said.

Dodgen-Magee’s presentation is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 4, and will be especially appropriate for parents of students in or near middle school years. It’s free, and all are welcome.

Reporter Jillian Daley contributed to this story.


By Lori Hall
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