Mancub loves the internet…and for good reason. His favorite games are 100 times more fun when he can play online. He recently joined Facebook and Twitter, and so far so good. As a responsible parent, I worry about my kids on cyberspace, and for good reason. They Skype more than talk on their phones…and I don’t always know who they are talking to. As an adult, I’ve accidentally wandered into some dark places–and I wasn’t even trying to! I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I’m scarred for life…and it was scary enough of an experience to make me want to host an old-fashioned book burning in my back yard…only with computers. I can just see it now–a pile of laptops and smartphones set ablaze in my yard–the neighbors, rubbing their hands together in glee becuase they finally have the evidence they need to send me away–and the perfect smoke clouds hovering over my house like storm clouds.
Ok, so that’s not realistic.
So what ARE we supposed to do to help our kids be safe online? I have researched and found 5 good suggestions.
1. Move your kid’s computer out of his room and into the open.It just makes sense. If you have already allowed your kid to have his computer in his room and you’re afraid it’s gonna cause a stink to move it…do it anyway. Sometimes being a parent means making unpopular decisions. They will get over it.
2. Be your kid’s “friend” on Facebook. This is an easy one. You can also go in and set their privacy settings so they can be safer and less public. Facebook does some of this on its own if your kid gives his correct age when signing up, but it’s not enough. Make sure their posts are not public and feel free to snoop around on their profiles. Safety first.
3. Talk to your kids about the dangers of social media. Remind them that what they post, even if they erase it, is never really gone. Keep an eye on their pictures and their friends. If something looks fishy, investigate. It’s your duty as their protector.
4. Install a filter on their computer. By no means is it foolproof, but it’s still a help.
5. Check your kid’s browser history. Again, this might be considered “spying” but it’s for their own good.
6. Many internet search engines have built-in filters that parents can set themselves. Bing, Google and Yahoo all have these.
None of these ideas are fool proof by any means, but it’s a good start. What have you tried that worked or didn’t work? Leave a comment below.