As a mom of three teenagers and a tech trainer who works with teachers, I am highly aware of the slippery slope that our kids can get into online. I shy away from using the word “dangerous”, because it makes me sound like a fanatic. If there is one thing I’m not it is a fanatic- about anything. It is a fact that our kids are spending hours online. Our job as parents is to monitor and discuss what they are doing online. This isn’t as easy as it sounds since most of our kids have a computer in their hand in the form of an iPhone or devices.
Each of my kids use the internet differently. I have one who can spend hours on Pinterest looking at nail art and decorating ideas. I have another who will read all sorts of online articles on whatever topic she is into, and my son will spend hours watching Netflix, YouTube, Instagramming, or playing Minecraft.
I really try not to read their text messages, because I wouldn’t eavesdrop on their “real life” conversations. I feel strongly that teenagers need to know they can be trusted until proven otherwise. I will admit to looking over a shoulder every now and then, but hey, nobody is perfect. I do know parents who actually have their kids text messages channel through them first. This method isn’t for me- there is no way I could keep up with all of the text messages!
If you are concerned about how much your kid is sharing online here are five ways to facilitate online safety for your kids
1. Keep family computers in a common area like the kitchen or family room. There is no reason for any kid to have their own laptop in their bedroom or tucked away where there isn’t much house traffic. It has been proven that kids using a computer where the screen can be seen are safer online. It lets them know that you are monitoring their traffic and what they are up to.
2. If you are really concerned about their online habits just check their browser history. If your child continues to clear the browser history you probably have a problem.
3. Talk with your kids about texting and social media behavior. I always say, if you wouldn’t say it in person, you don’t say it online. Social media exposure for teens creates an atmosphere of overexposure. Our kids can choose to increase privacy by not posting too much information. We have a rule at our house that no one can post anything about people in their family and definitely no posting when you are feeling emotional.
4. Know who your kids are connecting with. A person online that your child does not see in real life is a stranger. We don’t think about the risks our kids could encounter. For example, my son has been a Minecraft junkie. One feature of Minecraft is the ability to chat with other players who are in your “world”. My son has encountered predators in this situation and as soon as he became uncomfortable blocked that user.
5. Follow your kids social media accounts online. This is different than reading their text message conversations. The problem is that once it has been posted online, it never goes away. If your teenager has a Twitter, Vine, Instagram, or Facebook account follow their streams just to ensure they are being safe and wise about what they are sharing. They won’t like it, but don’t worry it won’t be the last thing they don’t like about you!
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