Parents would never bring their children into the heart of a major city and leave them unattended, yet every time a child sits down at the computer they enter a virtual, unregulated, border-less world where they can engage with anyone around the world. Are parents paying attention to what their children are doing online?
According to a recent study, parents do want to know what’s happening in their child’s Facebook world. Some parents friend their child, but many parents are secretly monitoring their children’s social networking accounts, such as Facebook. Parents should be monitoring their children’s online activity and behavior but NOT SECRETLY!
Friending your child on Facebook is not enough to keep them safe and teach safe responsible computer behavior. There are more concerns online than just Facebook and many more social networks too. Kids are turning away from Facebook to one of the more than 100 other social networking sites like Twitter and Tumblr. Also, many kids have more than one Facebook page, one for their parents and one for their friends. Are you getting the real version of what your kids are posting online? Kids are creating their own personal brand with their Facebook profile. How are they branding themselves for the world to see? What are the other concerns that parents should be paying attention to online?
- Online Predators
- Identity theftInternet addiction
- Inappropriate Websites that include, video chat sites, pro-anorexia and self-harm sites.
Many parents think of the online world and offline world as two separate entities. But to kids the online world and offline world are one and the same. It’s imperative that parents are involved in both worlds if they want to be parents of this plugged-in generation. Parents need to parent online just as they do offline.
Some parents say I trust my child to behave appropriately online. What is there to trust if they haven’t been taught appropriate online behavior? Teaching is a key component of parenting and needs to be applied to our children’s online world as soon as children go online. When our kids are little we hold there hand while crossing the street. We go through a process of teaching them how to safely cross the street. When we feel comfortable that they have learned this skill, then we let go of their hand and let them cross independently. As parents we don’t toss the car keys to our 16-year-old and say go ahead drive, I trust you. We teach them first. We as parents need to teach online skills and behavior as well. Then we can trust them to behave online as we have taught them with check-ins to make sure they are complying with our rules. These check-ins are necessary because 26 percent of children said they ignored their parents’ warnings on Internet safety.
Kids are not miniature adults. Their brains are not fully developed until they are 25 years old. The part of the brain that controls good decision making, impulsive behavior, good judgment is not ready for prime time. Parents need to guide their children throughout their teen years in all areas of Internet usage and behavior and make sure their kids are complying with Internet safety rules. Why is this so important? Kids are online for hours of the day and we can’t ignore this part of their lives. What kids do online can have a huge impact on their lives.
Colleges, scholarship providers and employers are all looking at Facebook prior to admission or employment. As parents we need to protect our children from making life-changing mistakes. Once something is posted online it’s out in cyberspace forever. There are no take backs or re-dos. As parents we need to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place. Kids can easily go to inappropriate websites with a click of a button. Kids are curious and will explore the Internet, some good sites, but also sites that we would not want our children to visit. Just look at these search stats:
• “Sex” was the #4 search for teens and tweens
• “Porn” was the #4 most searched term for kids 7 and under.
Knowing what our children are doing and how our children are behaving online is not an invasion of their privacy, because the Internet is not private period. A diary stays in the bedroom, what’s posted online is like standing on a stage for the world to see.
More than 48 percent of kids have computers in their bedrooms with webcams. Parents wouldn’t allow strangers into their homes let alone their child’s bedroom, yet kids are engaging online in video chatrooms with strangers. Do you know who your child is Skyping with?
Checking in to see what your kids are doing online is no different than checking in to see what TV show your child is watching, or checking in to see if parents will be home when your child goes to a party. It’s parenting 101 which is just what we need to be doing in our childrens’ 2.O world.