Virtual assistance is a major component of the child safety initiative of the Obama administration.
It’s a way for schools and social service agencies to send out information to parents and kids, often to help them spot potential problems early on.
The most recent report by the U.S. Department of Education found that nearly two-thirds of schools and more than one-third of social service providers have used virtual assistance for one or more of their programs.
But the data isn’t as clear on whether virtual assistance is really a great way to help kids.
“The bottom line is, there’s not enough data,” says Elizabeth Wachter, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education.
“I can’t tell you whether the use of virtual assistance actually helps kids, or if it just puts them in a place where they’re less likely to have a bad experience.”
The best ways to know your kids’ safety When it comes to online safety, experts say that parents should have a clear idea of how their kids are doing, what their peers are doing online, and what their friends are doing.
“That information is very important for parents to know and understand,” says Jennifer McVicar, a researcher at the Center for Child Safety and Cyberbullying at Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s not the most accurate information.
There are plenty of kids who aren’t as savvy as their parents are, and that’s a huge concern for parents.”
McVICar has worked with schools and other social service organizations to build data on how kids are using social media.
The information is a starting point for parents who might want to make changes or to take the next step in helping their children.
But there’s a lot of variation in how schools and programs use the information, and some schools and service providers will be more forthcoming about what they’re doing and how they’re helping children online than others.
Some social service groups have created a list of schools that have implemented virtual assistance.
Others are more conservative about how much they’ll divulge about what’s going on with their virtual help.
If you or anyone you know has any questions about the use or safety of online communication, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST.
You can also report your child’s missing online by calling 1-866-539-TIPS.
“If a child goes missing, there needs to be a plan to go to that person’s home to check in with them and find out what they are doing,” McVar says.
“What that might look like is the phone number for a child’s teacher or parent.”
When it came to how schools use the data, McVick says there’s one area where data is the most limited.
Schools may only collect information about students who are being monitored, and many social service programs have a zero-tolerance policy against sharing any data with the public.
“This is a very narrow set of data that we’re not sure how accurate it is,” Mcvick says.
The best data to have is the ones that schools and services have already used, says Laura Flanders, a professor of social work at the Emory University School of Social Work.
If a school’s online safety team is collecting data on students, the data can be used to identify problems.
But when it comes time to put that data into a report that’s shared with the general public, Flanders says that school’s privacy policies need to be clear about how the data is being used.
“You don’t want to be relying on the school’s own internal data, and you also want to have clear policy on how that data is going to be used,” she says.
For example, schools might want a list for every student who’s ever sent them a Facebook friend request or sent them an inappropriate email.
Flanders also says that schools need to include the data in reports that are published on the Internet, so parents and others can see the results.
“Even if you have a very clear policy for the use and sharing of information, it’s still hard to keep all of that data,” she adds.
“There’s a need for data to be shared publicly and it’s very important that schools, service providers, and others share that information.”
It’s also important for schools to consider how they use the best data, Flander says.
Schools need to consider the most important ways that information is being shared online and how that information might impact students, including: sharing information in ways that help them prevent future problems