Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things That Stick In My Craw - Parents With Heads In The Sand

It really saddens me when I go to give a talk about online safety for kids to parents and not one parent shows up. When talking with school personnel, it's mainly because some parents just don't care what their kids do online or they're afraid to find out what their kids are doing online.

The Internet is not going away, folks. Neither is cyberbullying or social networking sites like Facebook, or webcam sites like ooVoo, Skype, Tinychat and other sites kids and teens use like Formspring, Tumblr, Twitter, Myspace and Youtube.

Here's a clue for you parents: You need to know what your kids are doing online! If you say no to them getting a Facebook account because you don't have one, I can bet you they will open one up anyway. So meet in the middle and the two of you open your own accounts up and be your first mutual friends. If you don't want them to have an account because you feel they are too young for one yet, explain that to them and make a deal of some sort. Something like if they bring their grades up, do chores around the house, etc, you will consider letting them get an account. Technically, Facebook only allows kids 13 and older online, but because they don't make the kids verify their age or identity, many younger kids (some as young as 8, yes, 8) have Facebook accounts now.

You're the parent - act like one! As long as your child lives under your roof and you're paying for the Internet service and their cell phone, you have every right to see what they are doing online and on their cell phone. Make them give you the password to any accounts they have online, but don't be over vigilant and look over their shoulder or check their computer every time they log off. Give them some space, but do check once in a while to see what they're doing online.

As far as their cell phones, make sure they know they cannot delete any texts sent/received until you see them. If they do, then take the phone away from them or get monitoring software (I'll give you links in a minute).

Encourage your kids to come to YOU for help if they encounter something online or via their cell phone that makes them feel uncomfortable. Whether it's what turns out to be SPAM, a stranger trying to get them to reply or send them info/photos, or just someone trying to pick a fight, DO NOT freak out and make them feel like they are responsible for what they come to you with.

It is NOT their fault.

They did NOTHING wrong.

Show them you understand that and I can bet they will continue to come to you for help with anything else.

LISTEN to them and I mean REALLY listen.

If you don't understand what they're talking about, ask them to show you or explain it.

LEARN what they are doing online - ask them to show you how ooVoo, Tinychat, Formspring, or wherever they hang out, works.

Kids like to show off what they know - let them!

As far as Facebook goes, if you see a post or photo you don't approve of, don't tell at them and again, don't freak out. Suggest they change what they posted. If it's a photo, find a photo that's comparable but one you approve of and ask them to substitute with the one you like better.

It all comes down to meeting in the middle, folks.

As I wrote before, the Internet isn't going away anytime soon.

Learn to live with it. Learn what you're kids are doing online. And for heaven's sake, if your school or community offers you a FREE chance to have an expert like me come teach you how to keep your kids safer online, then make the time to come to the talk. We're not all a bunch of bores. And you just might learn something.

For info on monitoring/filtering software and more, go to:

WHO@-KTD Resources Page