The internet is here and let’s face it, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. In an ideal world our children would be able to access this wonderful creation safely and without issue, but let’s be honest, it and its cousin, the text message, are often the way the kids of today communicate.
So, as parents, we can bury our heads in the sand and hope that they do the right thing OR we can prepare them for the World Wide Web and the footprint they are about to leave upon it. Because once it’s out there, it can be out there forever. And no one wants to be defined by what they said at 13. If they were, I’d be known as the girl who stalked Bros and had a questionable fringe.
Early on of course, it’s all about keeping our children safe, yet as they get older, they need to fully understand the potential long term consequences. Yet how do we do this without scaring them senseless or scarring them for life? On the flipside, we surely don’t want them to be ostracised or unable to participate in the mediums they all share with their peers. Not when so much good comes from being online and connected.
The thing is, it’s easy enough to warn your children about these things but do they really listen to their parents? I’ll answer that, no, not really, not when you are lecturing to them. So here I present 5 ways you can prevent your son or daughter from getting into trouble online.
1. Practice what you preach
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, iMessage, Vine, Snapchat. You need to, as a parent, at least understand the fundamentals of each of these platforms. Your child WILL try them all. I urge you, even if you have no interest in using them yourself, to have a look and understand exactly how these work. If your child isn’t confident that you know what you’re talking about, they’ll not trust your judgement. Also, you need to know your child will set these accounts up, secretly, if you deny them. So be cool, let them do it, but just outline the rules. For instance, with Facebook, I once found my daughter ‘Liking’ a highly inappropriate page that her friends were liking. As I am her friend on Facebook, I immediately told her to take it off and explained why. Being a ‘Liker’ of these kind of things, whilst done with naivety, can and will be seen in years to come. By friends, family, educational institutions and future employers.
2. Passwords and access
There is a picture doing the rounds showing a post-it note stuck to a modem, with the words “Want the Wi-Fi password? Do the dishes, put on a load of washing and vacuum the floor. THEN, you’ll get the password”. While this is undoubtedly a great way to make a teenager pay attention, it’s not the kind of password that parents need to be worrying about. While you are the parent and while your children cannot pay their own internet or phone bill, you are, essentially, the gatekeeper. Without turning the situation into a difficult one, ask for their passwords, with the promise you won’t check it unless absolutely necessary. If they won’t give you access to their social media passwords, they’ll simply lose the internet. It’s just a safeguard, a way in which you can check that they aren’t being inappropriate online or, more importantly, being approached inappropriately.
3. See the signs
These days, bullying is online and seemingly, by stealth. You, as a parent, won’t see it or hear it unless you know where they are engaging and like I said above, they can hide these from you. Your job, as a parent, is to make sure that your child is aware that bullying, of any kind, but online especially, is never okay. That if they feel threatened or sad or insulted or upset by something, they need to let you know. And that you won’t judge. If they won’t speak to you, point them in the direction where they can report the behaviour. Especially, let them know that it is easy to become a part of the bullying without actually realising that they are involved. Sometimes it’s a throwaway comment. But if that comment is misconstrued or is compounded and that person does something drastic because of it, this will have lifelong repercussions. Advise them to be kind. And if for whatever reason they can’t be, tell them to turn it off and walk away.
You can be anyone on the internet. 15 year old “Billy from Clifton Hill” on Twitter could quite easily be a 59 year old lecherous fat balding guy, sitting in his undies behind his keyboard. Your children need to understand, before they are even thinking about going near a public forum like Twitter, how anonymous these places can be. That people will say almost anything to get what they want. But not before they’ve potentially done some real damage. This is the modern day version of ‘Buyer Beware’.
5. Futures Trading
At 13 years of age, your child isn’t thinking too much about what they are going to be when they ‘grow up’. Sure, they’ve got fleeting ideas. A firefighter, a teacher, a doctor, a vet or a pilot. Yet, little do they know, now days, one wrong move, one wrong inappropriate selfie and they could land themselves in some serious trouble and consequently, be denied the chance to reach their desired profession. Kids live in the moment, as they should. But it doesn’t hurt to point out, to outline that there are certain things on the internet they should both actively avoid and NEVER get involved in. As an adult, you have the capacity to make these choices but until that time comes, as long as they are aware that they have been given a privilege, having access to the internet, then they should respect it and use it wisely.
At the end of the day, you can only arm your children with the best advice, tools and knowledge available. They won’t always get it right, neither will you but at least we are all doing our very best to head in the right direction.
This post is part of our three-part ‘technology Vs teen’ guide, which we have put together to inform you on the importance of your children’s online safety