The common denominator in most of these dangerous situations, is parents who don’t monitor their children’s online activity – many readily admit to knowing little about the computer at all. Choosing to remain computer illiterate is like having children who are or want to become drivers when you don’t have your own license – there is no way you can provide the required level of adult supervision, guidance, and instruction because you don’t have a clue yourself. And if you do know computers, not closely monitoring your children’s use of them is the akin to having no idea who your kids’ friends are or where they are and what they’re doing when they’re together.
Online today is the “hanging out at the mall” of our day, only with far more inherent dangers.
So, here are my recommendations for keeping your kids…and grandkids…safe on the internet while helping them learn how to negotiate it as part of their growing up process - starting with the most obvious:
- If you don’t know computers, learn them, now and quickly – there is just no other path toward internet safety than one that requires you to know how to use it, and negotiate the web
- Once you’ve learned the computer, and for those who already use it, don’t be shy about setting up the parental controls that keep your kids off of certain sites – and keep predators from your kids – don’t let “that’s not faaaaairrrr” ever deter you from keeping them safe – just ask if they want a little cheese with that whine….
- Have all computers in a common area so you can keep an eye on kids’ usage – don’t let kid or fellow-adult peer pressure cause you to think that you are being “mean” by not allowing your child to have a computer in their room… that kind of off the radar computer use is precisely where many sad endings, begin
- Consistently talk with your children/grandkids, particularly teens, about cyber bullying – that it can happen to anyone (it can) – that it stems from the insecurities of really troubled kids not your child’s short-comings (it does), and that you have your kid’s back if something like that starts with them (you do!)
- Finally, let children know that you will be monitoring their use of social networking sites like Facebook, not because you don’t trust them, but because it’s another way of keeping them safe, just like the need to know who they’re going out with, where they’re going, and when they’ll be home…