Despite my busy work schedule, I’m a father above everything else. As a parent in today’s digital world, it can be a challenge to ensure your children have the knowledge and resources necessary to be safe when using social media.
It’s crucial for children today to be comfortable using technology—they’re building valuable skills to be applied in school and their future careers. The Internet is a great place for kids to learn, and it’s a resource that I wish had been readily available when I was growing up. But with the openness of the web comes a responsibility to keep your child safe, and provide them with the tools necessary to keep their online presence secure. There are a number of strategies we use in my home to make sure our kids are staying safe online. For today’s post, I have compiled a list of tips I use to keep my kids happy, healthy, and connected.
Keep your private life secure
Anyone has to assume that anything online could be exposed. This includes all private information: your name, address, contact information, social security numbers, and passwords. You should never open attachments or messages from someone you don’t know. Always verify the email address is correct before opening attachments, as hackers will try to spoof a real account to install programs on your computer that will log your keystrokes.
Not everything you see is true
Sometimes I think there’s just too much to be found online. The Internet is an unlimited resource when it comes to news, academics, and knowledge sharing. That being said, not all content available on the Internet is of equal value. In my family we always encourage our children to be aware of the resources that are truthful and accurate, and which are not.
There are plenty of predators out there
Kids can be naïve—that’s why they’re kids. If you don’t tell them that there are bad people out there lurking on the Internet, then you have to expect them to find out the hard way. The thing is, many people never think about how easy the Internet makes it to create a new, completely false identity. And it’s shocking how much easier it is to pretend to be a person someone knows in real life. How will your kids know this unless you tell them? Your children need to understand that people lie about their age all the time on the Internet and that they are most likely predators.
Don’t let your kids feed cyberbullies
Tell your kids to delete and block the sender of mean messages and to file a report with the website, or the police, if necessary. There’s a growing issue with cyberbullying today among the youngest Internet users. Don’t let your kids become a statistic in this epidemic. This phenomenon can also involve others even though your child may not be bullied, so teach your kids to always speak up for other victims. And most of all: don’t be the parent of a cyberbully. If your child is bullying others you are just as guilty for their actions because of your lack of oversight. Tell your kids to avoid online gossip and to always treat others with respect.
Use social media for good
Teach your kids to equate the Internet with creativity and learning. This involves having them read from the Internet: have them learn about science one day and read poetry the next. Unless you guide them in the right direction they will use the web idly and end up somewhere they shouldn’t. Teach your kids to see that the web exists for knowledge and is much more than wasting time on meme sites and playing games. Help your kids understand that, similarly, social media can be used to kill time but that it’s equally a positive vehicle for creative and charitable causes.
If you’re hiding something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it
It’s important to instil in your kids the desire to be honest and to know right from wrong. For this, I’ve found it helps to put the computer they will be using in an open area of your house, and not in your kids’ bedroom. This will keep them from wasting time and staying up late at night going to places and talking to people that they shouldn’t. I also find it’s helpful to install parental controls on the computers and phones when you’re dealing with younger children. Make sure you tell them you did this and that you’re keeping them safe, not spying on them! Just make sure the controls aren’t too strict or they will come to resent you for it.
The Internet and social media are powerful tools. When used safely and correctly, your kids will gain valuable skills to be used later in life.