Would you allow your son to meet up with an older woman at the mall? Would you let your daughter go to the movies with a total stranger? Of course not. But because today’s kids spend as many hours a day in a virtual world as they do the “real” world, they could very well be making online connections that you would never approve of, given the say.
The importance of parents being actively involved in their children’s Internet use can’t be overemphasized. Bookstore shelves are now lined with literature promising to teach you everything you need to know about parental vigilance in the new digital age. And just conduct a quick Internet search and you won’t have enough hours in the week to get through all the resources that pop up.
To help get you started, here are a couple quick reads. Mediasmarts.ca is a great resource. They have an interesting article, What Parents Need to Know that talks about how important it is for parents to keep up with the latest social networks.
And, when it comes to your child’s safety online, it’s easy to overlook the forest for the trees. Yes – with whom your kids are interacting, what they’re saying, and on what sites – are all important data points. But the “forest” piece of this is talking with them about compassion, self-respect, respect for others, beauty and body image, equality, how to be a true friend, and how to choose friends.
Instead of banning sites and taking away devices, talk with your children about what social and anti-social behavior looks like and feels like. Because, let’s face it, you can’t always be looking over their shoulders, reading their texts, and checking their Facebook pages for acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.
Also, consider sitting down as a family and laying out ground rules and establishing consequences for when those rules are breached. You might even choose to create a social contract to which your kids sign and commit.
Where possible, partner with your kids, their friends, their friends’ parents, teachers, school counselors, after-school program coordinators, your pediatrician, and anyone else in your community who is taking on the responsibility of educating our kids. It takes a virtual village to raise a responsible digital citizen.
Do you have tips to share with parents regarding online safety? If so, please write them in the Reply field below.