My son is now 20 and out on his own. Growing up he has always been immersed in the digital world though because I am so much. There have been so many changes with the internet since he was little and I had to stay on top of these changes through the years. All parents and caregivers need to have some understanding of the digital world we live in so that we can do our jobs as parents to protect our children and teach them how to use these tools. The folks at domain.ME asked me to share my experiences and tips with you all today – disclosure I have been compensated.
There is no 100% right way to teach our children. Every family has their own ideas on what should and should not be allowed with kids. There is no certain age for when you let your kids online, it depends on your child. I’m going to share what I did based on what I thought was best for my son, but these may not work for you fully. Adjust these ideas to make them work for your family. The one thing that is 100% certain is that as a parent you should not keep your head in the sand and ignore this important part of parenting in our world.
- Keep Conversations Going
This is always my number one suggestion. Have lots of conversations about the topic. Did you get scammed online? Share the story with your kids (age appropriate). Is there a news story about something online? Use that as a teachable moment. Remember, keep talking because things change as they grow up and things change online all the time. We had lots of talks at the dinner table and around the computer about what was okay, what to watch out for, and what to tell Mom or Dad about.
- Use Parental Controls and Filters
There are tons of different parental control programs and content filters available. As my son grew up we tried many of them. When the kids are younger you want to be a little more cautious on content but as they mature make sure you lessen those restrictions as you deem appropriate. My son is very tech savvy, which I love, but it also meant that he was very clever about hacking the controls. I had to keep on top of things with him and change systems to keep up.
- Access Is Everywhere
When my son was little most people only had a desktop computer. These days we have smartphones, tablets, public WiFi, and all sorts of access. Understand that it is unlikely you can use controls and filters on all of their access points. This is why those conversations are so important.
- Think About What YOU Share
Some people share all sorts of pictures and such about their kids online, some folks share nothing at all. Most fall in the middle somewhere. My son was with us nearly 100% of the time so I was pretty comfortable sharing and not as worried about abductions. Another thing though is to remember that your children will grow up and they may not appreciate all those embarrassing moments you shared when they were young once they are teenagers where their own online presence. Respect their privacy as they grow up as well – as my son got older he asked me to share less and I obliged him. I still ask if I can share new pictures of him now on my blog or social channels.
- Keep Up With Apps
Kids and teens love apps for their phones and tablets. There are some apps that can disguise themselves as something mundane but once the user puts in the right password it is something completely different. Be aware of social apps they are using as well and make sure you are current on the dangers of those popular apps with kids and teens. The Online Mom has a great post guiding parents to their teens use of Instagram and Snapchat.
- Consider a Contract
Every child is different, but for my son he needed things written down in black and white. We made contracts with him about his use of the internet and devices. Not everyone will need this, but for some families it can be extremely helpful. See my post Tips for Creating Family Contracts for Digital Kids for more ideas on this.
- Talk to Other Parents, Babysitters, and Family
If your child will be spending time someone else’s house make sure you talk to the adults to make sure they have an understanding of the internet and child safety themselves. Let them know any rules you have for your child that you expect them to follow. I was amazed at how many of my son’s friends had parents that were really unaware of what their kids were doing online and how to teach them safety. Don’t be afraid to teach the adults and offer advice or resources. Everyone has to learn sometime.
- Utilize Resources
There are lots of other resources available to you, the parent, to help you understand the internet and help your kids. Here are a few more to check out.
COPPA.org – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Learn what it is and why it is important.
Common Sense Media – What age you should let your children on social networks
National Children’s Advocacy Center – Internet Safety Tips for Kids and Teens
BOOK: Raising Digital Families for Dummies by Amy Lupold Bair (aka @ResourcefulMom)
Do you have kids or teens that are a part of your life that you need to help be safe online? Remember, family and friends need to know these things too. The internet is still very new and can be a very wild place. There is tons of good to be found online, but the dangers are there as well. Make it a goal to help promote safety and proper use for everyone.
What other tips can you share about this topic?