Times have changed. We live in a fast-paced world that’s driven by technology. That’s why it is important for parents to be able to speak with their kids about safe and responsible use of technology.
Despite what you may think, parenting your kids offline will influence their behavior online.
Having digital chats often can help parents and children learn more about each other's cyber-interests, and keep parents up-to-date on social media trends. As schools open across the country this month, it is imperative that your lines of communication open as well – your child needs to know they can come to you for help, especially if they are being harassed online.
Where do you start?
1. Cyber-safety is a priority.
What are the headlines talking about?
- Identity theft: Kids can be a target for online criminals. Use this topic as a prompt to discuss your child's password security, confirm they understand phishing scams, never open suspicious emails, and never give out personal information online.
- Cyberbullying incidents: Speak openly and frequently about online bullying, and about how to report it when it happens. Awareness is the key to prevention.
- Online predators: Discuss the risks of stranger danger online, and the difference between a real friend and a virtual friend. Be sure your child knows to click out of a website or chat-room when someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Sexting: Talk with your teen about the risks associated with sexting. Make sure they realize that once they send a sexual picture, they can't retrieve it. Also tell them about and the possible legal consequences that could be attached to it. The law considers teenage sexting as a form of child pornography.
What are you role-modeling?
- Distracted Texting: Texting while in the company of others, whether you are at dinner or in the middle of a conversation with someone, is simply rude. If you do it, don't expect your children not to.
- Texting and Driving: If you text and drive and use the excuse with your teen that you are an experienced driver – forget it. Your teenager believes they are invincible. They will be texting and driving as well. Be the role model. Put the cell phone away while driving.
- Online manners: Did you post questionable photos that your kids are not comfortable with? Don't expect them to be discrete with their pictures. Your actions speak louder than your words.
- Digital chatter: Social media, including Facebook, requires a balance when posting things from your personal life. If we are asking our kids to limit their sharing – we must do the same. Over-sharing is never acceptable at any age.
3. Kindness matters
The up-side to social media and the Internet.
- Caring for others virtually: Find ways on a daily basis through your digital life to help others. It could be as simple as lifting someone up with a smiley icon, to writing an email to someone that you have neglected for awhile.
- Learn about new apps and websites: There are always exciting places to visit online – let your kids be your tour guide. Challenge them to find sites that empower and inspire people. Here are some suggestions to get them started: Spark Kindness, Ripple Kindness, iCanHelp, Think Before You Type, and Kindness Counts.
- CyberSeniors want to connect: Not high school seniors, but elders. Maybe your grandparent or older neighbor wants to learn Facebook or struggles with their cell phone. Help them out by becoming their cyber-mentor. Caring for others offline will make you a better person online.
Chat with your teens and kids on a daily basis about how they can become cyber-mentors to you and your family. Everyone can learn from each other. It is nice to know we have each other's back – online and off.
Let's not wait for a national headline to discuss cyber-safety. Start a conversation with your kids about where and how they are spending their time online. We surf cyberspace daily, so we should be talking about it daily. It's really that simple.
Cover image courtesy of Flickr.