About Merlyn Horton

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So far Merlyn Horton has created 116 blog entries.

Establish Family Online Rules

Rule Suggestions for Parents Every parents wants to, and ultimately does, have control over their children’s level of online access. Like the other incremental responsibilities and freedoms we provide our children as they grow up, online education ideally starts early. Starting with complete physical restrictions of media use for children ages 0-2, and evolving into co-engagement, supervision and varying levels of constraints for children ages 3-16. At a basic level, for very young children or those children experiencing difficulties resisting devices at all, co-engagement is the safest way for your child to participate online. Sitting with your child, viewing the same device and experiencing online activities with them in real time is ideal. Using technology with your child means you can talk about online experiences as they occur. If your children are more fluent and more engaged online, supervision should be the next stage. This is as easy as making sure all use of technology is in view of a parent or children 3-6, or as complicated as ensuring that children are not alone or unsupervised with peers while playing online, for children ages 6-10. Family Online Use Agreement establishes constraints When your child is between 6-10 and is still leaning on you to understand technology, it is very important to put a Family Online Use Agreement in place. There are many benefits of knowing the rules for all parties—understanding the consequences for possible transgressions and having an open conversation about what both parties understand about online spaces. This is important particularly before children hit their pre-teens when hormones and peer-orientation become a stronger pull than parents’ influence. The Family Online Use Agreement can include rules (or constraints) that are activity or context-based. Easiest to [...]

June 14th, 2017|Online Safety|

Overuse of Technology by Children & Youth

Current levels of technology use by children, youth and their parents, are costing children and youth their developmental milestones. Children are now showing signs of language delays, limited vocabulary and lack of ability to understand nuanced communications such as body language and established social cues. Read the scientific evidence: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Atler. I believe it's very telling that there exists exclusive tech-free private schools in the Silicon Valley in California where 95% of the students are children of technology titans. Steve Jobs (Founder and CEO of Apple Computer) once famously responded to a New York Times reporter's question about how his children like the iPad. "I don't know, we haven't given them one."  he replied, saying he realized how powerful a tool it was that that he was careful what he gave his children. "The average 8 to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day." Children, adolescents in the media 2013, the American Academy of Paediatrics cited from a Kaiser family foundation study in 2010. U.S. Technology users must be honest and observant. Yes, technology is pervasive and compelling—as it was designed to be. Most apps and games are built with addictive ingredients; elements of uncertainty with potential for reward, peer recognition or stranger approval. Yes, there is enormous potential for learning and communication on an exponential level however, device-based communication lacks many of the elements of our historical modes of communication; facial expressions and body language of the sender, receivers and audiences of the post, comment or in-game trash-talk. Parents that provide good online rules, [...]

May 31st, 2017|Online Safety|

CTV and Global Coverage of Cyber Abuse in Abbotsford

Today's story about the Abbotsford teen charged with child luring, extortion, making child pornography and sexual interference, brought several reporters to my office for my views on the situation. Our interviews were brief and to the point, but I would like to more fully express some of my ideas and concerns. First, with this story and many others, I feel we have a confusion of definition. This incident will be called 'cyberbullying' by some. It wasn't. As the criminal charges that were laid against the Abbotsford teen illustrate, this case involved child luring, extortion, making child pornography and sexual interference. Internationally, between 7% and 79% of children report 'being cyber-bullied' because it is a vague term. When youths see this, or other local cases in the media labelled as 'cyberbullying' they think, "nothing like this has happened to me" or "cyberbullying is this extreme".  The case in Abbotsford is about cyber abuse. We need to be clear with our youth that while they may experience online drama...regular peer negotiations that don't need to be reported to adults...when they do experience something of an exploitive, sexual, threatening or emotionally distressing nature they do need to come to us. It's abuse, it's illegal and they have the right to protection and safety online. It's important to be very clear when we label online activities so that our youth and children, in turn, are able to identify exactly what they are experiencing. Secondly, many youth report that they don't tell adults about online concerns because they fear losing their technology. This is a tough one for parents but essentially this means that you need to reassure your children that they won't lose their devices if they tell you [...]

March 15th, 2017|Media and News|

Merlyn Horton writes for Platform for Good

When 'A Platform for Good' asked me to write a post for their blog, we were thrilled. Choosing a topic wasn't easy though. So many worthy subjects that we could choose from in our field - Internet Safety. I chose to write about our Youth-2-youth Program, one near and dear to my heart, especially because it incorporates so nicely restorative justice principles.

May 30th, 2013|General|

Life Online in the Nineties was Fluid

Life online in the late-nineteen-nineties was fluid. I could be anyone, i could talk to anyone, argue any point of view. They called it the "information superhighway" then and I was working with 'street kids'. My frustration as a youth worker then was that the only people youth seemed to meet online were predators or or pedophiles. The people who care most about youth where NOT the early adopters of the Internet.

April 30th, 2013|General|

It’s still not too late.

I spent fifteen years as a youth worker and when I wrote my first article about children, youth and the internet, the prevailing concerns were about online sexual exploitation and the vulnerabilities inherent in letting children loose in the un-restricted wild west show that was the internet. Then, we were concerned about MSN instant messaging and pedophiles who might lure young people out of their homes to be sexually assaulted.

April 30th, 2013|General|

Bullies will wear pink shirts too!

Amongst the sincere sentiments today will be some girls and boys who know that they have sent hurtful or untrue text or humiliated someone online or forwarded a personal message to the whole school or re-shared nude pictures of one of the girls in their school. They too will wear their pink shirts.

February 27th, 2013|General|