Now is a good time to look at the many benefits – and risks – of our wired world to help keep our kids socializing, but safe!
- The Internet has created countless new opportunities for learning
- The Internet is a great tool for searching for new ways to interact with the offline world
- Rapidly developing technology is making online communication easier and more convenient than ever.
- Predators seek out victims who are looking for acceptance and looking to be heard
- In addition, teach your child to be wary of providing personal information online
- Cyberbullying is a growing problem and is just as real and hurtful as traditional bullying
- The Internet has the potential to create a cyberbully, too.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Make sure your children feel comfortable talking to you about their online experiences, both good and bad. Never threaten to take away Internet access as a punishment for something that happens (intentionally or not) to your children while they are online: Chances are your children will just find another way to go online — and this time they may not tell you about what they’re doing.
- Keep your family’s computer in an open space in a common room. You want to be able to casually monitor what your child is doing. In addition, having a computer facing the corner of the room, or generally out of sight of other people, can make the user feel more isolated, making him or her more vulnerable to online risks.
- Educate yourself about what your child is doing online, and make sure you are comfortable using the programs your child uses. If you don’t understand something, ask your child. This can be a great way to start conversations.
- Periodically review with your child his or her list of contacts. If you don’t know someone listed, ask your child about that person.
- Search the Web for information about your family. Using a search engine, periodically search for your family members’ names on the Internet to see what comes up. You want to stay a step ahead of potential predators, and this is one way to find out what type of information they are able to access about your family. If your child is being cyberbullied, this is also one way you might detect hateful information about your child that is being posted online.
- Install blocking or monitoring software. Make sure your children know that you have installed the software and why you have decided to do so. This may make them think twice before doing something online that they know is against your family’s rules. However, don’t forget that these are just tools; you should always supplement these tools with honest communication with your children.
- Establish a Media Use Contract with each child in your family. It’s important that you have a conversation with each child to set rules and limits that are individually appropriate. Be explicit about how you intend to monitor your child’s online activities and what the consequences will be if the contract is broken. Once the contracts have been signed, display them as a reminder.
For more information and resources about technology and Internet safety, check out Common Sense Media.
- Twitter – Twitter can be thought of as a public diary more than social media. You must be very aware about what every 140 characters give away.
- Facebook – Clicking on unsuspecting videos or images can cause viruses to attack your computer or allow host programs to post on your Facebook wall. Do NOT friend someone if you do not instantly recognize him or her: Friending someone who looks like a peer can be dangerous.
- Tumblr – Don’t give away any personal-information hints like names. Since blogs are libraries of thoughts, teenagers must be careful to protect what precious anonymity they possess.
- Instagram – Be wary of who you follow, what pictures you like and what pictures you post, because, if you aren’t on the private setting, everyone can see what you’re up to!
- Internet – Things ARE too good to be true: For your teen and for you, beware of ads, coupons, people, places, and basically everything you see on the Internet. Someone on the other side is hoping to take advantage of you while you believe you are safe at home.
And teenagers! – Teens are especially social people! But don’t let that be an excuse to not be monitoring their Internet usage. A little goes a long way, and that goes for both monitoring and giving responsibility to your teen. Be respectful of their privacy, but remember, too – they’re your responsibility.