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.