A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of appearing on AZ Midday to talk with Destry about keeping our kids safe when using social media. Its very timely since a lot of our kiddos are spending more time on the computer in the name of homework (yeahhhh… because of homework…). While its crucial for parents to talk with teens about use of social media, don’t forget the wee ones- my tech savvy 4 year old knows how to use my iPhone better than I do… I will never forget coming home and opening up my brand new Macbook Pro. I stepped away to take a call, only to discover that in the meantime he’d already popped in a DVD and give my new laptop the stamp of approval. I figure we’re on track for a Facebook page by his 6th birthday. Yikes! Talk to your kids people! They are growing up with this technology and consequently have little fear when it comes to Facebook, Twitter and texting or emailing (yep, don’t forget email and text, those are social tools!).
So, here are my tips-
1. Start the discussion early- let your children know that there are limits and consequences when it comes to going online and start when your children are young. Growing up with the rules in place makes the rules seem less odd than suddenly trying to limit your 14 year old’s time on Facebook. Our 4 year old gets no more than 30 minutes of playing Thomas the Train games or watching shows online at a time, and if he abuses it he loses it.
2. Talk to your kids about strangers online- we tell our kids about “stranger danger” and to stay away from people they don’t know, but many parents forget to address the strangers they may run into online. Let your kids know that if they don’t know someone in real life they shouldn’t start talking to them online- or meet them for them in real life.
3. Discuss cyber bullying- your kids may actually be afraid or embarrassed to tell you if they are receiving harassing or threatening messages from peers. Let them know that if any communication makes them feel afraid or unsafe they should talk with you immediately.
4. Most importantly, when it comes to approaching online safety, know that your kids are ultimately going to cross the line and do things you’d rather they didn’t. Its what they do 🙂 So arm them with the information, and then let them know that you won’t judge them and that they won’t be in trouble when they come to you to tell you they are in over their heads.
I hope these tips help get the conversation started, and if you have any questions, comments or other suggestions, please feel free to share!