As a parent, I know how frustrating it can get at times when dealing with today’s fast-changing technology and how overwhelming it can feel to keep our kids safe and secure online.
Every day it seems they are using some hot new app or website to communicate, and they may be doing risky things like sending pictures and videos to each other and posting them online for total strangers to see. If you’re like me, some days I struggle to make a phone call (which kids don’t ever do on their phone) and yet somehow, I am supposed to be monitoring their activities as well! Can someone get me a flip phone, PLEASE?
The key to surviving today isn’t so much about monitoring as it is about education. Here at the nonprofit Center for Cyber Safety and Education, we don’t have a lot of faith in apps and tools that monitor your children on the internet or their phone. We’re not saying that putting a fence around the pool isn’t a good idea, but you still need to teach your children how to swim. Kids can learn to climb fences, and they WILL find a way into the pool — and around those monitoring apps. Educating them on the why and how to be safe on internet will last a lot longer than their obsession with today’s hot app. Give them lessons that they can use on any device or website and not only will you sleep better, but they will actually enjoy and benefit from the technology even more.
Where to start?
Get Devices Out of the Bedroom: Set up a “charging station” in the kitchen where everyone plugs in their devices at night and grabs them in the morning on their way to school or work. Our Children’s Internet Usage Study showed that 90 percent of children have a device with them in their bedroom at night, which leads to them being online after you are in bed — and when they should be sleeping.
Teach Passwords and Privacy: Help your children password-protect all mobile devices and online accounts. Teach them why creating strong passwords is important, how to create them and never to share them.
Respect Age Ratings: Don’t lie for your child when they want to join a social network, download an app or purchase a game. These age ratings are in place to help protect your child from inappropriate content.
Protect Identity and Location: Remind your child not to share any type of personal information online like age, school, address, phone number, last name or anything personally identifiable. Disable photo geotagging and talk about strangers together.
Join the Same Networks: Establish your own social media accounts on the platforms they’re using and take a peek as often as possible. Don’t stalk them or comment on every picture, but just the fact that they know you will also see their post may make them think twice about what they post. They should always think before the post a photo and ask themselves, “Would I want my grandma to see this photo?”
Don’t Enable: Set up written ground rules for usage times, and keep devices under your watchful eye as often as possible. Keep the family computer in an open space or at least have screens facing common areas so you can walk by and see what they are doing.
Monitor and Communicate: Communicate what is an acceptable, respectable (to themselves and others) online post. Remind them that social network posts and pictures will be available to future employers and colleges. They need also to know that if they see something that someone else is posting that isn’t appropriate (photos, bullying), that they can come to you to discuss it.
There are good and bad things that come with all advances in technology. When I was growing up, we had a to go to the library to do research for a school report; now, a child can do the same work on the bus on their way home from school.
Embrace the advances that we have made, but don’t let technology rule their future.
Click here for more tips on parenting in today’s tech world.
Patrick Craven is the director for the Center for Cyber Safety and Education (Center), a nonprofit charitable trust committed to making the cyber world a safer place for everyone. The Center works to ensure that people across the globe have a positive and safe experience online through their educational programs, scholarships and research. Visit www.iamcybersafe.org to learn more. If you have questions please send them to [email protected].