REALITY CHECK: One survey found that half of three thousand U.S. children surveyed during the previous six months said they or someone they know had been victims or guilty of cyberbullying. Talk to your kids and monitor that computer!
Our kids are called the “Net Generation” and for good reason. After all, this is the first group born into the era of Ipods, cell phones, text messaging, websites, podcasts, and blogs. But it’s also caused many a parent to lose a good night’s sleep with images of online sexual predators, pornography, social networking, cyber stalkers and scores of inappropriate sites.
The parenting goal here isn’t about banning your kids’ Internet access. After all, the Internet is here to stay and the educational benefits for our children are enormous. Instead, we adults need to get a bit savvier about cyberspace and learn what our kids do online so we can give them the guidance they need to use the Internet safely.
Here are my seven cyberspace “don’ts” from The Big Book of Parenting Solutions to discuss with your kids to help keep them safer online. Remember: one discussion isn’t enough! Keep those talks ongoing and change your rules as needed. The Internet is always a privilege, do remind your children that the privilege can be revoked at any time!
1. Don’t go on unapproved sites
Do be clear as to which sites are “parent approved.” When in doubt, your child should ask you. Keep this rule until you know your child can be trusted.
2. Don’t download or buy without parental approval
Don’t take or give anything to anyone unless your parents say it is okay, or download anything or install programs without first asking permission.
3. Don’t keep secrets
If you ever feel uneasy or uncomfortable about an exchange you had with anybody online or if you ever feel threatened tell an adult immediately. And then ask your parent needs to get you a new account and password. Even then periodically change your password. If you log onto an inappropriate site tell your parent. They can track the history of where sites you frequented, so admit what happened.
4. Don’t give personal information
Never give out any personal information such as your name or your parent’s name, birthday, address, phone number, password, social security number or credit card number. Don’t sent a photograph over the Internet to someone you don’t know personally.
5. Don’t exchange
Don’t give out your passwords to even your closest friend. Don’t let someone take your place at the computer and pretend to be you.
6. Don’t respond
If you feel uncomfortable or the message you’re getting feels strange, don’t respond. Ever. Hit the back key, log off right then, and tell your parents. Don’t ever respond in anger or revenge. Don’t respond back to a cyberbully. It will only increase the odds that the stalks continue.
7. Don’t meet
Never ever meet anyone you’ve met on-line without your parents present. You never meet anyone offline that you met online without your parents approval and accompaniment. Your parents may access and look at any of your files at any time.
Remember, parents will always be their kids’ best filter and firewall. Make sure to use your influence!
These ideas are adapted from Michele Borba’s latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. The book is designed as a complete parenting reference for raising kids 3 to 13 chockfull of hundreds of real and practical solutions that are based on the latest and best research findings.