By now we are all pretty aware that the internet is a dangerous place for our kids. There are many tools that we can install to block questionable sites and many sites that we can visit that offer safety advice. Here are a few links:
It's not enough to watch where they go. Give them direction as to what is ok to post and what is not ok. There's a clever insurance commercial out there where a bear is about to catch a fish in the air with its fierce jaws. The commercial says something like – you'd like to think that you are the bear. We'd like to suggest you are the fish. We all would like to think that it's the other people's kids who will do damage on the internet. That our own know better. Make sure they do by being involved.
I know several people personally who are really good parents with really good kids who have been devastated by their kid's internet activity. In one case the student thought that they were being clever and funny by imitating a movie. This ended up with the police confiscating their computer and an expulsion from school. Good parents. Good kid. Not enough involvement into what is ok and what is not ok on the internet. We all would like to think that our kids would never get into trouble, but sometimes what they think is just innocent and funny can be quite destructive.
Give your kids guidance and make them aware that:
- Anything posted on the internet is there to stay and cannot be taken back.
- Although they may be sending something to one particular person or group it can easily be forwarded for others to see.
- Anything on the internet/email can be printed and distributed.
- Anything done on the computer can be traced to them eventually.
- Anything that is intended to make people laugh by hurting another person is wrong.
- The same no bullying rules that apply on the playground apply on-line.
Here is one of my favorite filters for content to share with your kids. Is it something you would say to your grandma? If the answer is no then do not press send. Examples:
"So and so is fat grandma."
"If you don't give me your lunch tomorrow you had better look out grandma."
"Grandma, I hate you."
It may be a little goofy, but they will get the point.
One last piece of advice; do not allow them on social networks without having you or someone you trust as a connection. Go back and double and triple check that they do not delete the connection. This shouldn't feel like you do not trust them or respect their privacy. It is just good parenting.