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.