In ‘Howards End’, Margaret Schlegel quotes her father as saying ‘It’s better to be fooled than to be suspicious’ and explains that ‘the confidence trick is the work of man, but the want-of-confidence trick is the work of the devil.’
Forster was capable of considerable foresight: ‘The Machine Stops’ – written in 1909 – suggests that he would have been no more surprised at modern communications and information-sharing technologies – the Internet, if you like – than H.G. Wells. But if he had experienced the real, present-day Internet and social media, I think his heroine’s thoughts might have been a little more pragmatic. Trust in the fundamental goodness of the human spirit is a fine principle, but scepticism is a better survival characteristic in a hostile environment. And make no mistake, the Internet’s potential for anonymity and pseudonymity make it an environment where much more than money may be at risk.
Should you therefore teach your children paranoia? Of course not: there are already too many people terrified to use computers and/or the internet because they don’t know who or what to trust.
What I’m suggesting is much more difficult: to teach them to trust their own judgement rather than rely entirely on technical solutions and conflicting ‘official’ information resources. That sounds simple enough, but you also have to help direct them towards strategies for developing sound analysis and judgement, what educationalists call critical thinking. But it’s too critical a task to leave to educationalists: helping your children to help them themselves starts way before nursery school. The Wild West analogue that is the Internet is in many respects as lawless as any frontier settlement, but its outlaws enjoy the possibility of anonymity and pseudonymity that the blackhats of the Old West could never have dreamed of.
While I don’t advocate giving babes in arms immediate and unrestricted access to the cyberfrontier, it’s worth trying to give children a gentle, guided introduction: encourage them to try things, ask questions, and engage in constructive dialog: “It says here that…. do you think that’s really true?”
And there, of course, is the catch. Think of yourself as an educationalist, and like any competent teacher, make sure you’re learning enough yourself to earn your child’s trust as a teacher. It’s not about being the font of all knowledge: they will learn much more if, when you run into a problem, you tackle it together. Even now, many parents are still content to assume that their children are – even at an early age – more competent with computers and software than they are themselves. Even if this is sometimes true, as an adult you are much better equipped to apply your coping experience of the less salubrious aspects of life in general to online life. Don’t confuse technical grasp with coping.
Jayne A. Hitchcock
I tell parents to listen to their children and not freak out if their child tells them someone is bothering them online, making them feel uncomfortable or that they clicked on a link that led them to a porno site. Kids and teens are usually afraid they will be punished if they do go to their parents. So keep an open mind, listen and try to resolve the situation – it’s not your child’s fault. Help them! You can also get more tips from my organization’s web site for kids, teens and their parents at haltabusektd.org.
The best way to protect your kids online? Talk to them. Research suggests that when children want important information, most rely on their parents. Start the conversation early, and keep it going. Be upfront about your values and how they apply in an online context. Communicating your expectations can help your kids make smarter and more thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations.
Help your child learn how to socialize online safely:
Remind kids that online actions have consequences. Emphasize that once they post something, they can’t take it back.
Tell kids to limit what they share. Help them understand what information should stay private — like their address, phone numbers, family financial information, Social Security number, etc.
Encourage online manners. Suggest that they Cc: and Reply all: with care.
Limit access to your kids’ profiles. Use privacy settings, create a safe screen name, and review their friends list to include only people they actually know.
To learn more, check out our video Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or kid, you can learn more about staying safe online at OnGuardOnline.gov.
It’s about the approach: Parents should strive to be active partners with their children as they go online. View their exploration online as an opportunity to raise good digital citizens, empowering them to demonstrate critical-thinking skills and address situations like bullying.
It begins by building a positive dialogue with your children about their online experiences. Show an interest in the online environments they use and learn about them. If the child is old enough to join a social network, review the privacy settings with him/her and discuss the risks of sharing information online. Ask questions and react constructively when children encounter inappropriate material. These can lead to teachable moments for parent and child.
Parents should also become familiar with parental controls for all online devices and use age-appropriate settings to filter, monitor or block your child’s activities. However, if the focus is on monitoring and limiting where your child goes online, they may begin to hide their activity from you, which can put the child at greater risk. Safe online behavior is largely about good decision-making, so be sure to support good their choices online.
Parents also should set a good example by keeping a clean machine. Your devices should have the most recent security software, web browser and operating system installed; these are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. The family commitment to a safe and secure online experience begins with you.
Ask your teen what they think about safety, privacy and security. Don’t quiz them but ask them in a genuine way like you would approach a good friend or perhaps an expert because, chances are, they know a lot about these issues. Parents have a tendency to underestimate their children when it comes to safety. Studies have shows that, for the most part, kids are more savvy than we give credit for. So, before installing any filters or monitoring software or freaking out over all the things that could happen, ask your kids what they think. You may find out they know more than you think they do and you might learn something about your own online safety, privacy and security. Very young children need close supervision and close parental involvement but, as they get older, kids need freedom to.
With the internet being an open book, parents need to guard their children’s online privacy as the “net does not forget” anything that a child may say, do or post online. Parents should google their children’s names once a month and discuss any inappropriate findings with their children. This helps protect their children’s online safety and also helps ensure that their digital trail will not harm them in the future.
Based on lots of conversations with our customers, the thing that parents struggle with most is how to balance their need to know what their kids are up to while giving them the freedom and trust they need to develop emotionally. That problem hasn’t changed much across the generations – our parents and grandparents had the same concerns. But the nature of communication, especially among teens, has shifted so radically in 20 years, that today’s parents are navigating the digital landscape without a compass, or if you prefer, without an app.
A generation ago, if kids were home and they weren’t on a landline phone, they simply weren’t in contact with their friends or the world at large. And the lapses in judgment every teen makes on a regular basis didn’t have the very real potential of being instantly broadcast on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit.
Today, your 13-year-old could be texting sexually charged messages, communicating with potential predators or enduring online bullying while sitting next to you on the couch. It’s scary, but it’s a fact.
So what are your options? There are plenty of easy-to-use technology solutions out there – simple, affordable ways to monitor your kids’ activity on their phones and computers, even after the communications have been deleted.
Only you can decide if these devices fit into your parenting philosophy, but many would argue that it’s not only within your rights as a caregiver to look into teen monitoring options, it’s also a moral imperative.
If your child is growing up in the United States in the early 21st century, he’s been handed the means to engage in a level of private, 24/7 communication that’s unprecedented in our history. The tools to monitor that communication are readily available. It’s important to know that they exist.
Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting kids offline and online. As much as we want to pass on this role to others when it comes to the online world, the reality is that all parents are actually equipped to be the defenders of their children online as much as they are offline. Most every answer to the question of what should we do to keep our kids safe online comes from the online world. We’ve all done – don’t talk with strangers, don’t give up your personal information, don’t go somewhere alone, don’t go down a dark alley, be nice to others, be respectful, be helpful to your friends… and the list goes on. And yet, the lack of understanding of the technology that drives the online world is likely the single most common reason why parents tend to shy away from thinking they can keep their kids safe online.
Technology has changed so much in the last two decades that it’s hard to keep pace with all the developments.
Before we throw our hands in the air in frustration and become lean back parents, remember the book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It is time for us to engage with our own children and become lean forward parents. When it comes to technology, let us take the title of Fulghum’s book to the next level– All I Really Need to Know I Will Learn from My Kindergartener.
Here are some tips on getting started:
Kids love to teach as much as they love to learn. Hold a technology learning class every week where you are the student and your child is the teacher.
- Weekly learning topics can include:
- How to set up a Facebook profile and privacy settings
- What is Foursquare or Tumblr and how to use it
- How to use Facebook for group chats
- How to find and install apps
- What is Instagram and what do people do on it
- What is everyone using at school
- How to play Club Penguin and Xbox Kinect and other games
- What are some of the bad ways for using these apps and devices
- Have your kids and their friends teach a larger class for other parents.
- Have each of your children talk about what they like most and least about the technology they use.
- Ask for homework (I know, this brings back bad memories of school, but suck it up).
- During class, ask lots of questions including the safety, security, and privacy questions you know so well.
These are just a few ways to help you be the parents that keep their kids safe online and offline. And remember, the best technology educators in the country are sitting down for supper in your kitchen every night.
Want to keep your child safe online? Don’t be an ostrich.
Don’t bury your head and assume that your child isn’t going to make the same mistakes their friends will, and don’t worry that you couldn’t possibly keep up with all of the new technology.
Keeping a child safe online starts with the realization that (1) they’re going to be online interacting with the entire world, and (2) they’re going to be using the social networks, apps and services that their friends are using. All of this will be happening whether you like it or not.
Now that that’s out of the way, how do you protect them?
Most parents will never know more about all of the new up-and-coming web services than their children do. And you could spend the rest of your life trying to keep their smartphones and gaming systems completely locked down.
The only long-term solution is to teach your child that everything they do online is public and permanent. Anything they say or do online is one click away from being seen by the entire world wide web. And it’s there forever.
Salacious photos and scandalous comments are a screengrab away from being spread through message boards and online forums. Once there, the content is indexed by search engines where it’ll sit for the foreseeable future.
Sure, you could sit down with your child and explain how to “lock down” their Facebook account. You could teach them how to “protect” their Twitter and Instagram profiles. You could teach them how to “unlist” their YouTube videos. But these privacy features really only provide a false sense of security. After all, what happens when their phone gets stolen? Or what happens if an account gets hacked? These things happen every single day.
If your child recognizes that EVERYTHING they do online is PUBLIC and PERMANENT then they’ll never have to worry about a friend accidentally forwarding a private conversation, or a hacked profile page, or an online predator. If they know that they’re comfortable with everything they post online there’s never a reason to worry.
Dr. Mike Ribble
The most important tip for parents that I can provide to parents about keeping kids safe online is to remember REPs (Respect, Educate and Protect). If parents can pass along the idea of Respecting themselves and others when using technology, the issues of cyberbullying would decrease significantly.
Children need to keep in mind their reputation when posting anything. Kids need to be reminded that there are others on the other side of that text, post or Tweet. By doing this the issues will decrease. Second, that children needs to Educate themselves on how the technology works before jumping out and using it. Everyone will save themselves the headaches of wishing they would have known the guidelines before using a new technology, app or social network. Children need to learn that there are certain rules for when and where using technology is appropriate. And finally, Protect themselves when posting information in a social network or post.
If you make your children aware of what they post today may be seen by someone they may not want to see it, there will be less concerns of one’s digital footprint. Children should learn that they need to look out for others when using technology. Parents need help their children to make good decisions that keep themselves safe and help others. If everyone helps in this process there will only be good information that every person can be proud to share with their entire family.
Donna Rice Hughes
Defending children against Internet dangers can seem like an overwhelming task. While there is no silver bullet to keep kids safe in the virtual space, the good news is that you don’t need a Ph.D. in Internet technology to be a great cyber-parent. However, you do need to make a commitment to become familiar with the technology your children use and to stay current with Internet safety issues. Our goal is to educate, empower, and equip parents and other caring adults with the knowledge and resources needed to protect children from online p*rnography, sexual predators and cyberbullies , as well as cyber security risks and dangers related to social networking, online gaming and mobile devices. The most important and comprehensive safety tip is to implement both Internet safety rules and tools (Rules ’N Tools®) on all of your child’s Internet enable devices—one without the other isn’t enough!”
Never hand over an Internet-connected device before you know how it works, what your child has access to, and learning where the settings for parental controls and safe search filters are. The worst cases of pedophilia and cyber bullying I have seen that has occurred online with clients of mine who come to me after their child has been abused online, happened soon after the parent blindly handed over a mobile device or PC without looking into the restrictions that each device comes with. The parents also hadn’t set boundaries with their child so that they had to ask permission before downloading new apps.
Get educated, parents; go to Cyber Safety awareness talks; and find out what your kids are doing online and what you can do to keep them safe! Learning new skills is hard, and yes it does take some time, but if you don’t take time to learn about the internet your child might have a nasty episode that could haunt them for the rest of their lives. Act before it happens, and don’t assume you know enough to keep them safe.
Teri L. Schroeder
The most important tip I can share with parents is to not under estimate your parental discernment as it pertains to your child’s online safety. So many parents today feel “challenged” and intimidated due to the fact their child may know more about technology than they do. I encourage parents to apply the same guidance and direction, as it pertains to their child’s online safety, as they do with their children in the real world. Technology is a huge catalyst on how children socialize, communicate and academically learn. A parent may find themselves in a situation whereby their son/daughter may know more about the “mechanics” on how to navigate within a certain online program or app.
When a parent finds themselves in this situation use this time to have your child teach you the “technical” mechanics simultaneous to you empowering your son/daughter with solid parental wisdom and guidance on how they are viewed and perceived online. Always remind your child that they are “somebody” that matters in the real world and that also applies to the cyber world. This means that when they create an online “name” for themselves and share information online as it pertains to their hobbies, likes and dislikes….this information matters. All parents are concerned about their child’s safety and most importantly how they are perceived by others….in the online world this is called “digital reputation.” As parents our job is to guide and protect our children. As our children get older, and become more independent, our parental guidance and direction matures as well. The same methodology applies on and off line.
One of the most important online safety tips I can share with parents is…
Learn everything your kid knows about the devices they use and much more. Become an expert in all the websites they visit and become familiar with everyone they communicate with. Letting your kids run free on the web is no different than letting them get behind the wheel of a car. You need to know they are ready to roll before you give them the keys.
Parents need to participate in their children’s digital world. Rules are not enough. Parental control software is not enough. We need to teach our kids how to use and enjoy technology responsibly and that is best achieved by engaging early and often.
Parents need to play games and interact online with their children. I go into schools all the time and ask, “How many of you have ridden bikes with your kids? How many of you have played dollhouse with your kids?” Parents’ hands go up. “How many of you have played Minecraft? How many of you have played a game online with your children?” Arms never go up. Moms and dads need to appreciate that the toys of childhood have changed, and if they want to engage it might include sitting around playing Minecraft together. It may not be Monopoly.