These days, kids are practically born to be computer savvy, as the current generation has been born and raised into a society overtaken by Facebook, Twitter, MSN, Skype, Wikipedia etc. But, does knowing about technology mean that our kids are savvy enough to keep safe online? They might like to think so, but we’re not entirely sure.
As parents, we’re always worried about protecting our kids, and sometimes we worry that we’re wrapping them up in cotton wool. Some parents think that they need to allow their kids to make mistakes, in order to learn from them, but when it comes to internet safety, is it wise to give them complete free reign? Should we be more controlling, or is there a sense of common ground that can be met, to keep both parents and kids happy?
Most computers sold today, come with Parental Settings that allows you to monitor your child’s usage, and have complete control of how long they can be on the internet, and even restrict which website’s they are allowed to visit.
If you decide to ban your child from using a certain website, don’t just do it without their knowledge. Sit them down and ask them why they have been using that website. Their usage might be completely innocent, and it’s just a case of you not really understanding what they’re into. On the other hand, you could be correct in your thoughts, so you should explain to them exactly why you are banning them from using that website, to ensure that they understand. Of course, they won’t like it, but you have to stick to your guns.
Be actively interested in what they’re doing, and encourage them to open up about the website’s that they like using. If you can get your kids talking about what they’re upto, and who they’re chatting with, it might be easier to spot any pattern changes in their behaviour. This could help to decipher if they are hiding something from you, that you should perhaps be concerned about.
Try not to act like you think that they are always upto something. Sometimes, kids can be secretive about things that they’re embarrassed about…they’re talking to the boy they like, for example. So, it’s important not to jump to conclusions, because other wise when something really is wrong, they’ll think you’ll be mad, so might be too scared to tell you about it.
The secret really, is communication. If you’re kids know that they can talk to you, without the fear of getting into trouble (and most kids think that way), then they might be more willing to approach you. And if you’re concerned about something, don’t get instantly mad. Instead, talk about it with them in a civilised manner.
Kids spend a lot of time talking to their friends on social networking sites like Facebook, so it might be an idea to either “friend” your kids, or if the idea of that simply repulses your offspring, insist that they keep their privacy settings on a high level, and make sure that they understand the importance of privacy. It might even be beneficial to sit them down, and explain to them about only talking to their friends, and not accepting invites from people that they don’t know. Most kids aren’t stupid, but it helps build a link between you and them so that they can be given the opportunity to show you, for themselves, how savvy they are.
If your kids want to have video conversations or web chats, make sure that you know who they are talking to. The chances are it’s just their best friend or boy/girlfriend, but if they’re secretive about it, and often turn off when you enter the room, it’s probably fair for you to ask questions about the situation.
So, the golden rules of keeping your kids safe are:
- Monitor their internet usage
- Have frank discussions about any activity that you don’t approve of
- Don’t treat your kids like they’re criminals, and don’t be looking over their shoulders all the time. Chances are that most of the time, they’re not doing anything wrong, so show them that you do trust them
- Stay vigilant. Sometimes kids are getting into trouble on line, but you have to deal with it reasonably, or you’ll risk pushing your kids away
- Open the communication link between you and them. If they know they can talk to you easily, they’ll be more likely to come to you
Most of all, remember that the internet isn’t all bad. Of course we hear nightmare stories about online perverts etc, but the internet is also a great way for kids to maintain relationships, to do research for their schoolwork, to talk about the stuff that they love with other fanatics, and even to just chill out.