Parents face so many demands — work, managing a household budget, cooking, cleaning — that trying to manage their child's online activities might seem like a mountain they simply don't have the time or energy to climb.
But it's important. In fact, it's so important that it might affect where your child goes to school or what type of job they are able to get. Educators and employers are looking at the social media habits of our children and it's up to parents to teach them the foundation of acceptable online behavior.
Our kids are online all the time. And even with web blockers and parental controls, kids will find ways to get around them. Here are a few tips to consider:
1. Teach Them the Rules
Make sure you have an honest conversation with your children about the type of things that it's not OK to say or do online. This includes posting suggestive or racy pictures, photos showing them breaking the law (i.e., engaging in drug use or underage drinking), and using profanity or hateful speech. There are a host of other topics that also fall under this umbrella. Tell your children to ask themselves this question before posting something online: Would my mom or dad allow me to say or do this at home?
2. Protect Personal Info
Make sure your children know the rules about not sharing personal information. Some social media sites will allow you to post a phone number and other personal information. This is a huge no-no.
3. Tell Them Predators Lurk
Explain to your children that there are dangerous people — predators — who might try to approach them online. Their questions and advances might seem harmless but they could turn into something dangerous if your child reveals too much personal information.
There are software programs that will allow you to keep tabs on your child's online activities such as eBlaster and WebWatcher. These are two software products you can buy that will allow you to keep tabs on the websites your children visit, who they're talking to, and what they post online.
5. Tell Them You're Watching
If your kids know that you're paying attention to their online activities, it might help them to make better choices. It will also allow them to have conversations with you about things they find questionable on the web.
6. Get Educated
Familiarize yourself with the popular social media websites. Create an account at various sites so you can keep tabs on what your kids are doing.
7. Be Smart
Keep computers in a common area of your home and put limits on the amount of usage on their phones, tablets, or other devices that are web-enabled. When your kids visit family and friends, you will have less control over their activities but you should inquire about the computer arrangements and ask for limits to be placed on their online time.
8. Share Real Stories
Tell your children stories of people who have had negative consequences when they posted something objectionable online and faced repercussions. It can be something that a celebrity encountered or a more personal experience. Those lessons should show them the dangers of posting something that was later regretted.