What a great time to check in on your child’s digital world. As the new school year starts, so does the need for our kids to feel socially connected with their friends in the digital era we find ourselves parenting in.
Many of us will be faced with kids starting high school and perhaps for the first time having a mobile phone. Or kids turning 13 and for the first time being legally old enough to access the popular social networking sites such as Facebook (although I’m told this is for “old people”), Instagram, Snapchat and the like.
So I thought at the risk or repeating myself, I would remind readers that there are some simple but important steps you as parents can take if you are perhaps allowing your child (with I’m sure much trepidation) to venture in the digital era on their own device.
It’s important to remember that while our kids are smart, tech savvy, intuitive and that they get IT, they don’t have the maturity to consistently make good choices, see potential dangers, see how hurtful some words and images can be to others, or to understand how their online actions can not only harm themselves, but others. So this is where we parents come in; we may not understand online as much as our kids do, but we do have a responsibility to parent our kids in the digital space just like we do in the “real world”.
My top tips to help make our kids safe online are:
1. Ensure your kids understand that they are building their digital footprint that they will take with them their whole life, “If the school principal shouldn’t see it, don’t post it” is a great line to use. Most kids don’t fully understand this concept, but I can assure you that prospective employers check digital footprints!
2. If you are paying the bill for the device, you have the right to set some rules and monitor your child’s online activity.
3. Ensure one of the rules is that you follow or friend them online via their social media accounts so you can interact with them; this in turn allows you to monitor their activities and talk with them about the tone, appropriateness etc. of what they are posting.
4. Turn off the devices’ camera geolocation. In fact, if your child has an Apple device, set up the parental controls. This feature can be found in settings and is easy to set up; you just need to remember the password you allocate. It also enables you to restrict explicit content, age appropriate APPS, age appropriate music, all without your child even being aware you’re restricting their device.
5. Ensure that if you allow your child to be in the social media space and be on things like Facebook and Instagram, that their accounts are set up as private. I also recommend double checking your own accounts are private as well.
6. Set down some rules about who to follow or friend – do they actually know the people, or is it the “official page” of a celebrity? If not, then question why they would need to be talking with strangers.
7. Ensure that if you have purchased a monthly plan for your child’s phone that you have actually set up it up so data is automatically blocked if they exceed their monthly limit, or you may be in for a rude shock when the bill comes in. Talk through the bill with your child, so they get a sense of understanding as to how much phones and devices cost, because to most it’s a bottomless pit of entertainment.
8. Ensure you discuss with your child the appropriateness of what they are posting, because I can tell you now – the number of tween/teen girls posting semi naked selfies is alarming.
9. If you see something that seems odd, wrong, or attention seeking from your child or their friends, talk to your child about it.
10. Encourage your child to talk to you about what they see, what they post and any chatter or images that they think are inappropriate.
Caroline Bleechmore, Cyber Safety Advocate