Hint: Probably not enough.
Here’s a disturbing fact. In a recent survey commissioned by internet security company, Norton, it was discovered that 74 per cent of parents don’t know what their children are doing online. Even more frightening, 41 per cent never check their kids’ online activities, while 37 per cent have never discussed online “stranger danger” with their kids.
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 digital world and the footprint they are about to leave in it.
I choose the second option – so here’s a little cheat sheet on ways you can prevent your son or daughter from getting into trouble online.
1. Start talking.
The top thing parents can do is to talk to their kids, and keep talking to them. The internet keeps evolving, and so does the way kids use it – and that means they will always experiment with new websites, activities and social networking accounts.
The first rule is to avoid judging, overreacting or panicking about anything your kids tell you.
Always tailor the discussion to be age-appropriate, and give your child space to give honest answers to your questions.
If you are struggling, try talking to your kids at bedtime or when you are driving – basically, at a time when their defenses are down.
Start the conversation early to establish good online habits right off the bat.
2. Set an example.
You need to be able to understand the social media platforms your children will be accessing. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, iMessage, Reddit, Snapchat. You need to, as a parent, at least understand the fundamentals of each of these. 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 won’t 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.
3. Watch for signs of cyber bullying.
Your job as a parent is to make sure that your child is aware that bullying, of any kind, 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.
Make sure your child knows that if they are being harassed online, they should first block the harasser and then report the situation to an adult instead of responding themselves, as it could just encourage them to continue.
Kids and parents should find out how to report bullying and harassment on each social network that is used, and you should keep a record of any offensive calls, messages, posts and emails.
Finally, if your child has been a cyberbully themselves, teach them to be kind, apologise, take down any offensive material as soon as possible and talk to a trusted adult about the issue.
4. Beware of pretenders.
You can be anyone on the internet: 15-year-old “Jake from Maroubra” on Twitter could quite easily be a 69-year-old lecherous fat balding guy, sitting in his undies behind his keyboard who lives two streets away.
Your children need to understand before they even think about going near a public forum like Twitter how anonymous and dangerous these places can be, and that people will say almost anything to get what they want. But not before they’ve potentially done some real damage.
5. Be aware of the long-term issues.
At 13 years of age, your child isn’t thinking too much about what they are going to be when they ‘grow up’. Yet one silly move, one wrong inappropriate selfie, and they could land themselves in some serious trouble and even be denied their dream job down the track.
So it doesn’t hurt to point out that what goes online, stays online, and remind them that access to the internet is a privilege that they should respect and use wisely.
When it comes down to it, the best thing you can do for your kids is to keep the lines of communication open. It always pays to ask your kids the following questions: What are your friends doing online? What are the newest websites and apps? Can you show me your favourites? And, has anything online ever made you feel weird, sad, scared, or uncomfortable?
Once you have a trusting and open relationship with your kids, they will be far more likely to come to you at the first sign of trouble.
Are you worried about your kids’ online safety?
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Helping your kids grow up in the digital age of social media, online stranger danger, sexting and cyberbullying adds a new dimension to parenting. Internet security company Norton wants to help give parents the tools they need to open up the conversation with their kids about online safety.
Norton Family is a free online service that lets parents keep tabs on where their kids go and what they do and see online to help them develop good online habits. To learn more and start using Norton Family for free visit norton.com/au/protectingkids