Parenting in all generations has had its’ challenges, however in today’s digital society it has created a new world of parenting concerns—in addition to offline parenting. It’s back to school, and our children’s digital devices and online access is only going to increase in the coming days. How do we keep up? It is all about what happens behind the screens and offline parenting that is important.
It’s a fact, having “the talk” doesn’t only mean about the birds and the bees anymore. Before any child is handed a keypad of any kind, parents should discuss; digital citizenship, cyber-safety, how to report online abuse and above all your child needs to know that having any type of tech gadget is a privilege—not a right. If they abuse this privilege, there will be consequences. Having a family Internet safety contract in place is recommended.
Be very clear on your consequences and always follow through. It is important that your child know that as a parent you will be monitoring them. This way there are no surprises, it isn’t about not trusting them, it is about their safety and well-being.
Monitoring verses snooping
Your child’s safety is a priority. Monitoring is parenting. When safety trumps privacy, snooping is your last resort.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, many teens don’t tell their parents they are being bullied online for a variety of reasons. This can cause for emotional scarring that is unnecessary if addressed early.
You may notice behavioral changes such as:
- Secretive and withdrawn
- Change in appetite
- Changing friends
- Failing, underachieving in school
- Sadness and signs of depression
Keeping up with the latest digital trends
Kids and teens are usually ahead of their parents when it comes to apps and tech trends. An open dialogue with your kids is better than spying and snooping. This starts early with a genuine interest in their digital lives.
The truth is monitoring systems and parental controls are only useful to an extent. This is why it is imperative that your child is taught digital awareness offline so that when they are faced with difficult situations online they are better equipped to handle them. This is not to discourage parents from having monitoring programs in place, but you have to face the reality that especially teens are cyber-savvy and will find ways to escape monitoring systems. This is why it is so important they have cyber- skills to make good choices when you are not around—digitally.
New apps and social media sites
Just ask! Make it a habit to ask your kids if they have downloaded any new apps lately – or what their favorite sites are. Learn about their digital lives and where they cyber-surf. Make this a frequent conversation.
Want to find out more? Ask your child’s friends or your friends kids for the latest app or social media (networking) site they have joined or downloaded lately. Engage in a conversation of why they like it and what it offers. This will give you an idea of where other kids are hanging online. It’s amazing how much your child’s friend’s love to speak to parent’s—other than their own!
After SnapChat the big trend is the disappearing message apps that are saturating online stores and becoming increasingly popular with users of all ages.
It is not about the app, it is about having the knowledge to click-out when you know you are in a dangerous or risky area online or situation. We often hear about websites, such as CreepyPasta, only after there is a tragedy.
The fact is, although the site might not be where we want to have our kids lingering, it’s not the site that harmed the teenager. It’s the choices the teens make. It goes back to offline parenting.
Parenting our children offline is what will give our children online character and social behavioral skills online to make better choices when they are surfing cyberspace on their own. This includes decisions to download appropriate apps and use social media sensibly.
Friends, family and cyber-mentors: Share and share alike
The best tip for parents for online safety is keeping your offline communications open. Discussing digital safety, cyberbullying, online scams, password security, new apps, new sites and all things tech should be part of your family conversation same as how was your day at school or your summer camp adventures.
It’s a fact, most teens and parents are attached to their technology. I am confident there is something everyone can share at the dinner table about the Internet whether it is new website or app they learned about that day. Become each other’s cyber-mentor.
Let’s not wait for national headlines to have a conversation. Let’s not wait for another youth suicide to talk about the digital world.
Keeping up with technology is almost impossible, but keeping up with our child is not only possible – it’s necessary. It’s all about making it your priority—be sure you have several family dinners weekly and have those tech talks often, they are important to get behind the screens of your kids!
The following is the third in a three-part series on how to help safely navigate the world of social media with your kids from Sue Scheff, a mother, author, parent advocate, and expert in internet safety education.
Summer camp is not only a time to meet new friends and people, your children will have memories and experiences for a lifetime. Many will want to capture them in photos and videos – especially in today’s digital world.
Sharing your summer experiences with friends and family is expected, however when it comes to the World Wide Web, precautions need to be taken.
Over-sharing is a common mistake that many people of all ages make on social media.
Prior to posting videos, talk to your child about things they need to consider before posting each photo and video:
- Setting-up a private group for their camp group viewing only
- Double checking their privacy settings
- Thinking about who is in the photos/videos? Will they mind their picture on a social media site?
- Sharing selectively
- Creating an online photo album entitled 2014 summer camp
The Teens and Screens survey revealed that many young people are still over-sharing personal information. This is a very serious concern that parents need to discuss with their tweens and teens. For example:
- 50% posted their email address
- 30% posted their phone number
- 14% (which is 14% too many) posted their home address
Although 77% said they understand that what is posted online is public and permanent, they are still risking their keystrokes by sharing personal information.
Listen up, 80% of teens and tweens have had conversations with their parents about online safety.
So where are we losing cyber-ground?
We have to lead by example.
Studies have revealed that parents are the number one influence on their children. You may think they aren’t listening to you; they are and more importantly they are watching you.
Many parents are over-sharing.
As parents monitor their children online, kids are snooping on their parents – virtually. Have you thought before posting your pictures and comments?
What some parents share online:
- Party pictures that you would caution your kid’s not to post
- Swimsuit pictures that may not be appropriate for public viewing
- Personal family conflicts that could be embarrassing to your child
- Online contention with a friend (when threads turn ugly, and a parent engages in it)
- Mixed messages or quotes such as, “If Box Tops for Education were on wine labels, my kid’s school would be rich!”
- Sexual innuendos, profanity and content that simply is not what parents should be modeling as digital behavior
- Dating escapades of single parents
Using the excuse that you are an adult is not good enough. First and foremost, you are a parent. Your keystrokes matter. Your actions speak louder than words. Watch this important video:
Raising smart cyber-citizens start with parents. As I’ve said before, digital citizenship is a priority in today’s cyber-world. It will determine your child’s future, from their college to their employment and possibly their relationships.
For a final thought, keep in mind, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Clean-up your friends list on your social networking sites
- Keep an open digital dialogue open with your child
- Less is more. If a photo seems questionable, don’t risk it. The 15-minutes of views is not worth years of humiliation – convey this to your child and remember it for yourself
- Think about how your children will view what you post before you post it
The following is the second in a three-part series on how to help safely navigate the world of social media with your kids from Sue Scheff, a mother, author, parent advocate, and expert in internet safety education.
Cyberbullying is a concern for all parents. We can’t be with our children 24/7 and the fact is our kids spend more time in cyberspace than they do with us. The most common form of cyberbullying among tweens and teens happens with cell phones. We need to equip them with the knowledge to handle cyberbullies and prevent them from becoming victims.
Since your child either just came home or will be coming home from camp soon, let’s be sure they are well-prepared to know how report online abuse and, most importantly, know they can come to you if they witness it or are a victim of cyberbullying.
Going back to the study of Teens and Screens that I referenced in my last post, in 2014 cyberbullying tripled. 24% of tweens and teens lack knowledge on what to do in the event they witness online abuse or are a victim of it.
According to Cyberbullying Statistics for 2014, 52% of teens report having been a victim of cyberbullying. Sadly, only 33% of those victims have reported bullying to parents or another adult. A recent European study showed that over half of teens view some level of cyberbullying as a normal part of online life. By having open and frequent face-to-face chats with your child about digital citizenship, hopefully we can eliminate this opinion of cyberbullying.
First we need to understand why tweens and teens don’t tell their parents.
1) Fear of consequences: Your child’s online existence is a critical part of their social life. With all their friends online, being excluded would be devastating them. They don’t want to risk you banning them from their friends and their digital lives.
2) Humiliation and embarrassment: Our kids are human and have feelings. Although some kids portray a tough persona and believe they are invincible, deep down everyone feels hurt by cruel keystrokes. Your child may fear looking stupid or weak. If the incident gets reported to their school or camp, will they be able to face their classmates and campers? Imagine the horror of a child hearing from peers after being bullied that they somehow deserved it, brought it on themselves or should have just toughened it out rather than be a snitch.
3) Fear of making it worse: We have taught our children well so they understand that bullies are looking for attention. By reporting the incident of cyberbullying to a parent, your child may fear it could anger the bully and make matters worse for them online. In some cases bullies will enlist more online trolls to cyber-mob your child. Of course the child’s dreaded fear is his or her parent reporting it to their school or camp and more people knowing whereby they become a possible target in the future.
Building a strong digital relationship with your child:
1) Speak openly about cyberbullying: Communication is key to helping your child understand that you are their advocate not only offline, but online too. Talk to them about cyberbullying prevention and remind them of the basics such as:
- Never engage with online bullies
- Never give out passwords
- Never try to seek revenge on a cyberbully
- How to block bullies
- Save evidence of cyber-bullying, especially if you have to report the bully to a school or camp
2) It is not their fault: Being a victim of a cyberbully is not their fault. Remind them you are not going to judge them or blame them. Assure them that you will not revoke their Internet privileges or take away their phone if they are cyberbullied. As I mentioned earlier, the Internet is an important part of their life so if they feel threatened that it will be removed, they may believe it is easier to be bullied and emotionally tormented. We don’t want them to be feel this way, it is not healthy for anyone to have to tolerate.
3) Listen: Communication is also a two-way street. Be sure you hear what your child is saying. Many victims say what helps most is to be heard — really listened to, either by a friend or an adult who cares. Hopefully that is their parent. Cyberbullying may not be physical, however the emotion scars can be deep. Listening to your child respectfully can start the healing process. Never diminish their feelings and let them know you are their advocate.
The following is the first in a three-part series on how to help safely navigate the world of social media with your kids from Sue Scheff, a mother, author, parent advocate, and expert in internet safety education.
Do you consider yourself a savvy digital parent? While your kids are away at camp during the summer, it can be a great time to get caught up on learning about the cyber-lives of youth today. The more you know, the more you can better communicate with your kids regarding their digital lives.
The results of a recent 2014 study by McAfee titled, Teens and Screens, should be a wake-up call for parents. Some of the staggering findings include:
- 59% of tweens and teens engage with strangers online
- Cyberbullying has tripled, yet 24% of the respondents admitted they don’t know what to do in the event of online abuse
- Tweens and teens are still over-sharing their personal information, with 14% admitting posting their home address
Exactly what do you know about your child’s online life? Most know about cyber-safety 101:
- Limiting screen time
- Telling kids to never give out passwords
- Parental settings/controls and monitoring kids’ and teens’ social media activity
- Being kind online – explaining to your kids to think before they post
- and other common cyber-security issues
This is all very important, but let’s look at some issues you may not have considered.
Some virtual friends are actually strangers.
At camp your child is meeting many new friends and people. They will be expanding their social networking circles and it is fun learning about new people and their lives.
What your child needs to understand is that there are restrictions. When they come home from camp and jump on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking sites to add their new friends—that it should be limited only their real friends from camp.
What does this mean?
Many kids can get distracted into friending or adding people that are friends of friends—and before they know it they are connected to hundreds of people they don’t really know and have never met. Why is this not a good idea?
The main reason: your child’s future is at-risk.
Your child’s digital image is their future. His or her online reputation will be what determines their college and employment future. 98% of employers now say they will run an Internet search on an applicant and 77% of those with a negative online presence are not invited for an interview. College recruiters are reporting the nearly the same statistics—they are putting your child’s name through an Internet wash-cycle, and how it spins out will determine if your child secures a spot at a college of their choice.
What does this have to do with a virtual friend that is actually a stranger?
Adding people to your friends list that you don’t know in real life is not a smart idea for anyone, especially kids. Since you really don’t know them well or their online behavior, you risk them lifting photos, manipulating them and re-posting them on sites you may not approve of. They may use your comments out of context, or worse—you may upset them and they might create a slime campaign with your name.
What to do? An action plan for parents.
When your child arrives home from camp this summer and starts chatting about his or her new friends, it is a great opportunity for you to put your digital parenting hat on. Your child will probably keep in touch with these new friends through social networking, which is a benefit of our social media, however let’s discuss friending—now.
This is a perfect opportunity to also have your child clean out their friends list of others they possibly don’t really know. Especially if you have a teenager that will be applying to college soon— explain the reasons for this. This is not about you not wanting them to have friends, but in reality these aren’t friends—they are virtual strangers.
It is hard for children to understand this, as adults we learn with maturity that our friends are a reflection of who we are. We have to start instilling this into our children. Explaining to them that they don’t want friends that are making them feel uncomfortable because of what they post or if they don’t contribute positive content.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are full of people that they probably won’t miss. Unfriending is really painless. Visit www.JustUnfollow.com which will will let you know who isn’t following you back —or even inactive followers – on Twitter. That is a great start.
Safety is always a priority. Be an educated digital parent.