Happy New Year! It’s a new year and that means we get a chance to “do a better job” at keeping children safe on the Internet. Keeping your children safe online means staying informed and getting involved. It can often be hard to keep up with the latest technology and social media sites, but not knowing can no longer be used as an excuse. From a mom of a “teen” to all parents this is my new years gift to you – the gift of simple strategies you can implement to keep the love of your life – “your child” safe on the Internet.
Each generation of parents face new obstacles with which the previous generation never had to contend. The changing times have opened us to the powerful world of technology and social media. Technology is not going away, and it’s up to us to keep our children and teens safe on the Internet.
10 Tips to Keep your Children Safe on the Internet
1. Talk to your children, and most importantly listen. Never underestimate the power of continuous open conversations. I ask my daughter about her day, what’s going on in her world, and usually will slip in a conversation about social media or Internet usage. It’s amazing how my daughter opens up when I am interested in what’s important to her, listen without interruption, and encourage open conversation. Lastly, it’s important that these conversations become a normal way of life as this will make the way easier when and if an issue arises.
2. Get in their business. Some people feel that “spying” on their child will break the trust in the relationship. Let me be very clear about my stance: I do not spy, I am very upfront with my daughter about my monitoring her technology habits. I would rather her be temporarily upset with me for monitoring her activity than reacting to a situation that could have been avoided.I compare the monitoring to being a supervisor,; you expect your employees to do the right thing, however from time to time you still inspect their work. With our children we must inspect what we expect.
3. Place your home computer in a common area. Often times when your child has less privacy they are less likely to do something they don’t want you to see. I have found having the computer in the living room or kitchen, opens up communication and sharing.
4.Check browser history. Periodically perform a check on your browser history to find out where your child is spending time on the web. Many children are aware of this tactic and will erase the history. If you check the browser history and it’s clear, you may want to explore further.
5. Get Social. If your child is on Facebook, you should be on Facebook. Do you know what your child is tweeting? What pictures and or videos are they sharing on Instagram? I have encountered many parents who became aware of their child’s behavior on networking sites or potential dangers after an incident, some of which were life changing. The best way to understand the language and culture of each social networking site is to join and interact.
6. Make setting up social media profiles and privacy controls a family affair. Help your child decide what information should and should not be listed on their profile and discuss privacy settings. Your child will feel empowered as they had input into the decisions, and it gives you an opportunity to set expectations and consequences.
7. Monitor cell phone usage and text messages. Everything that can be done on a computer through the Internet can also be done on a cell phone. Ask your phone carrier about the ability to set-up parental controls, which will allow you to set limits on access and disable some functions. Randomly check text messages, review photos being sent and stored, and incoming and outgoing calls.
8. Know who your child talks to online. Review her friends list, does he really know everyone or are they merely “friends of friends?’ If you have never met the friend, their parents, or your child doesn’t interact with them in “real life,they probably should not be interacting with them online. If you see someone on your child’s friend list that you don’t recognize, ask your child how they know them and then determine if they should continue communication.
9. Monitor online gaming activities. While parents keep a close eye on their child’s computer usage and social media interactions, predators are also contacting children on their Play Station III, XBOX, and smart phones. Monitor your child’s friends list, and discuss the issues of playing and chatting with strangers and never disclosing personal information.
10. Implement Technology time-outs. When my daughter walks in the house from school, she understands that her cell phone should be turned off. I don’t take the phone from her, but the expectation has been discussed and set. If her friends want to speak with her they know to call the home phone or we have designate hours she can accept calls (usually after homework,) if she wants to use the internet she can access our home computer in the common area or we have a set of guidelines on her laptop usage.
Most importantly, communicate with your children. Communication is better than any software monitoring software. Discuss what they are doing online and why. Set rules, expectations and consequences.
Marlin Page is a Globetrotting Speaker, Founder of Sisters Code, Technology Strategist- empowering women and girls in STEM and Life, and Excuse Annihilator. As Chief Technology Mommy, Marlin shares online safety news to keep parents informed of what’s happening in the “online” world. Marlin also currently serves as a speaker for Microsoft’s Global DigiGirlz Program, has been invited to lead a technology discussion at SXSW’s Interactive Festival, and serves as a speaker/panelist for a number of organizations.
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