If you have teenagers, chances are they are online whether you want them to be or not. Internet access is a part of school life, and social media is as prevalent for our kids today as party phone lines were in the 1990s. Snapchat, Instagram, and other new platforms popping up all the time are common ways of communication for teens. Rather than forbid or ignore that it’s happening, it’s time to work at keeping your kids safe online. Here are a few ways to help make that happen.
Keeping Your Kids Safe Online
Model positive online (and in person) behavior.
Cyberbullying is real and terrifying. It’s easy for kids to hide behind a screen and type horrible words they may not say in person. Adults certainly are not immune to being victims or instigators of online bullying. Let your online footprint be one of positivity and professionalism. Let your children see that you choose the high road and do not argue with trolls or post demeaning words towards others, no matter how much you disagree with them.
Open up communication.
If your child is active online, let them know that they should always communicate with you when they see suspicious or bullying behavior whether it’s directed towards them, a friend, or even just something that makes them uncomfortable or doesn’t feel right. Make sure they understand that they will never be in trouble for reporting things like threats, sexual comments, or bullying behavior to you even if they are involved initially. It’s important to build trust, so your child knows that they can come to you when they need help online.
Be friends with your child.
But, wait? I am their parent, not their friend, right? Well, yes, but when it comes to online social media platforms, always make sure that you are your child’s “friend” or connection on that social media. It’s not to say that they may not find a way to have a secret profile or have other networks you don’t know about, but if you have open communication and connections online, you’ll be more likely to keep tabs on your child and make sure they are safe online.
Keep up with the trends.
Read about the latest social media platforms and trends before your children become immersed in them. There are anonymous sites where people can post comments without ramifications. One site, Sarahah, which is arabic for honesty or frankness, allows users to post anonymous opinions and thoughts about other users. This is a easy platform for online bullying to occur, and it’s important that parents know that these apps and websites exist. Check out resources like Common Sense Media to stay up-to-date on online trends as well as read app reviews for parents.
The most important step in keeping your kids safe online is building open communication and trust offline. Let your children know that you are there to listen and your home is a safe place. Being present for our kids is the first step in making sure that they are safe in their offline and online lives.
Manage your kids cell phone use with a contract.
State the rules clearly, as well as the ramifications if those rules are not followed. Helping your kids understand how to responsibly use their technology is a huge part of keeping them safe. For more information, here’s my post about how to manage your kids cell phone use with a contract.