The summer months bring our children some much needed and well deserved vacation. With no homework or tests, our kids often have a lot more free time. While most articles about summer safety focus on sunscreen and swimming for your younger children, in many households, older kids spend this newfound free time in front of the computer. So what can parents do to make sure that our kids have an enjoyable, yet safe summer online?
Parents, permit me to share some “shocking” news with you. Every now and then, your child might click into a site that is inappropriate. But it is important not to jump the gun and ban him or her from all forms of technology for life. Kids are curious and do not always realize the dangers that can come from certain sites – and parents need to realize that if your kids do end up online somewhere they don’t belong or somewhere you don’t think they should be, this doesn’t make them “bad kids.”
So, how can we be open with our children, and allow them some freedom, but still keep them safe?
Often, parents do not want or know how to talk to their kids about taboo subjects such as pornography and Internet activities, but it is amazing how much difference a little conversation can make. Talk to your children about what they are doing online and how their online actions can in fact affect them later on. Look at their online profiles together with them, and talk about what information has been shared with the public. If you see something problematic, discuss it. Ask your kids to show you their “friends” lists and other social media activities. If there is a problem, don’t bring down the hammer, but let them know that if they want to stay online, there are changes that need to be made. Invite your kids to ask questions and to come to you if they feel their safety or privacy has been compromised. Let them know that they should feel safe coming to you. We are not looking to give out punishments. Instead, we want to work together to maintain a secure environment.
If your child has a Facebook profile, Instagram, or Twitter account, insist that you become their “friend.” This gives you at least some insight as to what your kids are sharing and to whom they are speaking. Yes, they can still exclude you from certain content, but being part of their virtual world will give you at least an idea of what they are doing and with who they are doing it. It is also a good idea to let your children know that you are “looking over their shoulders.” Computers in bedrooms are not a good idea, no matter how much you trust your kids. Place the computers in a family area such as the kitchen or living room. You may not stand over your kids the entire time, but at least you can keep an eye on things. Your kids will also know that you are in the room. Yes it is true that many kids have Smartphones that cannot be monitored in common rooms, but the more you can be a presence the less chances there are for problems.
Fair but Firm…
There are certain online activities that should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
- Online bullying– if you discover that your child is involved in this type of behavior on either side, do not wait for it to get better on its own. Step in as a parent and take action.
- Unauthorized purchases– Just because your kids may have your credit card information it does not mean that they can use it any time they want. If you notice unauthorized purchases, investigate immediately.
- Attempted disabling of security software– Many parents rely on computer monitoring software to keep tabs on their kids online activities. The problem is that with technology, the children are usually smarter (and quicker) than the adults. So, often the kids find a way around these monitoring platforms. If you use such software and see that it has been compromised, it is time to investigate.
Whether we like it or not, our kids spend a great deal of their time online and in the summer, there is a good chance that this time will increase. Use these months as an opportunity to make sure your kids are acting responsibly and safely.