What are you doing to Parent Online this summer?
Summer vacation is starting around the country. Are you being mindful of your children, tween and teen’s online habits?
Recently I was sitting right next to a family in a restaurant. This family comprised a Mom, Dad, a baby and a five year old. The little boy had his head down in a smartphone the entire lunch. Makes for a nice, quiet peaceful lunch, doesn’t it?
But, all I could think of was what this little boy was looking at on this internet connected device? Were these parents sure that the content he was looking at was appropriate and safe?
We’ve all seen kids heads down in their devices be it a phone, tablet or laptop in restaurants, cars, at school and at home. The digital world is our new reality. As parents we have a responsibility to make sure that:
- The content our kids are viewing is appropriate,
- Who they’re interacting with is someone they know, and we know,
- That what they’re posting won’t have a negative impact on their digital footprint,
- That they’re not posting personal information that can put them at risk for cyber-criminals,
- That how they’re behaving online meets our standards of acceptable conduct i.e. no cyberbullying, sexting or engaging with strangers allowed.
What does that mean for parents?
It means being aware of what their children are doing and how they’re behaving online. It means being aware of the websites their kids are visiting, the social networking site they’re using, the apps they’re using, the people they’re communicating with.
Further it means finding out whether the website or social networking site or app is age appropriate. It means knowing whether the game is rated for kids and if the content is violent.
There are millions of websites. There are millions of great sites. But there are also many sites that unacceptable for kids such as Bimbolands, that encourages young girls to be the best bimbo they can be, self harm sites and blogs, hook up sites that promote casual sex, games that are incredibly violent, and video chat sites like Omegle that invite people to talk to strangers.
There are millions of apps now. There are anonymous cyberbullying apps, like Yik Yak. There are apps that purport to make images disappear, like Snapchat. (They don’t.) There are live streaming apps where your teen can upload a video of themselves in a nano-second, like Periscope.
The risks are enormous. That device is not a one way entertainment device like a TV. It’s an interactive, powerful computer that has a whole world beyond that screen, in which kids can be exposed to all kinds of content, good and bad, and engage with anyone across the globe. So the next time your child has their head down in their phone, table or laptop think about that.
Isn’t it time to be a parent online and monitor your child’s online activity so that you can teach them safe appropriate online behavior?