Learning how to be responsible, smart and safe online is something every child should know. When your children reach their tweens and teens, they begin to spend a great deal of time online. Children that age love social media sites, where they can text, exchange pictures and post updates to show what is going on in their lives. But the Internet can be a dangerous place for kids that do not know how to conduct themselves properly.
Concerned parents can lessen their worries by making sure their children understand they are very vulnerable online. In a perfect world your child learns great social, communication, independent, and creative skills online. But cyberbullying, sexual predators and other potentially dangerous situations also exist on the Internet.
So it is important that you communicate the following ideas to your tweens and teenagers:
Never post anything online you wouldn’t want the world to know.
- Think twice, or even 3 times, before posting any comments or pictures if you are in an emotionally heightened state.
- If you have not physically met someone that is chatting you up online, unfortunately, you have to assume the worst.
- Consider restricting access to your social media accounts. Does the whole world really need to be able to connect with you?
- Never flirt with strangers. Never.
- Go with your “gut feeling” if something just does not feel right.
- Consider that whatever you are saying or posting might be viewed by your parents.
- Compare notes with your friends. Meet your friends in person to get their input about a particular individual that’s trying to add you to their group of friends.
Parents should also sit down with their children and have a very honest and frank discussion about online safety. Remember, your children are going to think they know way more than you about social networking. And they probably do. But studies show that only about 1 in every 10 teens or tweens will report cyberbullying to their parents.
The way to improve that average is through communication. You should constantly be talking about online safety to your children. Put parental controls to work for you on all Internet accessible devices. “Friend” and” follow” your children on all social media sites. If they protest, tell them this is a nonnegotiable condition. If your child believes you will take away access to the Internet, they will usually begrudgingly allow you access to their social media. More helpful advice for keeping your children safe online can be found at sites like i-Safe.org, OnGuardOnline.gov and GetNetWise.org.