The internet isn’t all bad
Even though online threats can feel overwhelming, remember that being an involved parent can be protective factor in helping to keep children safe online.
Have an open discussion with your children about social media safety. Work with your child to make a list of expectations for phones and online use. If they are invested and involved in putting the list together, they will feel more ownership in following the rules.
Make telling easier
Most children do not tell an adult if someone is breaking their boundaries or rules online. One of the big reasons we hear from young people is that if they tell, their devices will be taken away. Go through “what if” scenarios before there is a problem. Let them know that you want to know if they were feeling unsafe online and what steps you would take.
Do your homework
In addition to filtering software available to parents, internet and cell phone companies have different resources for parents to help manage accounts. These services can be helpful, but should never be the stand alone plan for safety. Frequent conversations about your expectations using “what if” scenarios can help make online safety a partnership between you and your child.
Public vs Private
Help your child make the distinction between public and private information. Go through the apps your child is using with them and talk about privacy settings. Go through “what if” scenarios around private information. Remember, privacy isn’t just about the school your child attends or their age, it is also being wary when someone starts asking personal or intimate questions.
Talk to your teen about how their character in the real world should match their character online. The language used and pictures they choose to share should help in building a positive digital footprint that opens doors to future positive opportunities. If your child does make a mistake online that harms their digital footprint, remind them that they don’t have to face the situation alone and that they can come to you for help. All online problems have real world solutions.
Where do they hang out?
Know where your child spends their time online and why. Let them know that you will periodically check their accounts, ask questions about people on friend lists, and check in as to how they are navigating technology. Be aware of hidden apps and multiple accounts that might slide under your radar. Caregivers should be able to approve and remove any of the apps that your children are using. This isn’t about spying or creating an adversarial relationship. The more you see that they are using their technology responsibly, the more trust they will receive.
Don’t walk away
It can be tempting for parents to feel in over their heads as apps change, online language changes, and technology feels one step ahead. Don’t give up! Talking with your young person about your expectations and checking in as to how they are spending their time and why are very important. Know that there are resources to help parents, from classes like ours to online resources like CommonSenseMedia, Netsmartz, and JWRC.
Answer body questions in person
Most people who use the internet do not want to harm your child. The people who do use the internet to cause harm tell us the number one thing they are looking for is young people who want to talk about sex or have questions about sex. Identify with your child healthy ways to get information about their body and people they can go to if they have questions that they are uncomfortable asking you in person.
Be a good example
They are listening to you AND watching your example when it comes to online behavior; from taking time away from screens to not texting while driving. If we tell children to step away from their devices when they are upset or angry, we should do the same.