The Information Age has fostered the development of a technology-driven generation gap. Younger persons appear to have the upper hand when it comes to adapting to cyberspace leading many parents to seek the advice of their children. However, though young people may possess the technological prowess to maneuver the virtual world, many lack the prudence to cope with potential online dangers. As a parent, it seems like a daunting task to provide an adult online presence in the youth-dominated web space so here are 5 parenting tips to assist with the use of the internet safely by your kids. All you need to do is remember the acronym PARTY.
Adults need to take steps to improve their level of computer proficiency in order to have a better understanding of the webspace explored by their children. Improve your computer literacy by reading articles, talking to other parents and even seeking the advice of older siblings. How can you protect your children from the dangers of the online arena if you are not armed with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their web use? Be a tech-savvy parent who can monitor their social media activity – view friends, pictures posted, statuses. For younger kids, learn how to create a common email account or bookmark their favorite sites so that these are easily accessible to both of you.
A plethora of applications or tools are available to parents concerned about the online safety of their children. Download pop-up blockers and filtering software such as NetNanny, WebWatcher, McAfee Safe Eyes or Family Protector. These include features such as the filtering/ blocking of websites, social media, chatrooms, online search and gaming content. They also keep records of web searches, websites visited and social media activity. These applications allow you to take control of your children’s online lives thereby inhibiting their ability to access potentially harmful material.
Parents and their kids need to work together to create a list of rules for technology use, “The Tech Commandments”. These digital decrees may include:
• Limit the use of screens (cell phones, laptops, tablets) to a specified period of time
• Do not share personal information online (name, address, phone number, location, school name)
• Never meet anyone in person you met online
• Immediately report any uncomfortable conversations to parents
• If a webpage requests “parental consent if under the age of 18” then do not accept or remain on page without permission
• Seek permission to download any material online as they may contain viruses or inappropriate content
• Do not trade personal pictures with persons online
• Treat peers with respect online
• Acknowledge that privacy and safety are at risk on the Internet
• Agree to work with parents to help them understand online activity.
Most importantly, parents must create an atmosphere that fosters dialogue with their children about technology use. There should be frequent family discussions on topics such as online reputation (posts remain online forever), online dangers (stalkers, predators), cybercrime (hacking, cyberbullying), and netiquette. As a parent, you should be firm yet non-confrontational. Your children should feel comfortable approaching you about concerns with regard to their online lives.
You must also be familiar with the warning signs that your child may be exhibiting as a result of an online predator or cyberbullying:
• Changes in behavior – extra protective of cell phone, laptop or other devices, secretive behavior
• Obsessive need to get online and unusually upset when unable to
• Receives phone calls, skype calls or messages from “friends” that you do not know about
• Gets gifts or mail from strangers
• Quickly closes tab or turns off computer at the presence of an adult
• Downloads pornographic material
The role that a parent plays in setting an example of appropriate technology use for their children is often overlooked. It is necessary for adults to maintain a value for privacy and safety when accessing the Internet so that future generations can follow suit. Parents cannot spend excessive amounts of time on devices and expect a different set of behavior from their children. They also should not display reckless behavior such as texting, tweeting or checking email while driving.
About Alyssa Mike
Alyssa is one of the genii of Trinidad who won a scholarship for Stanford University. Prior to Privacy Shell, Alyssa played important roles such as President of SJC UNESCO.