As parents, we make sure our kids have food to eat and clothes to wear. We do our best to teach them morals and values and to protect them from harm. We teach them the dangers of crossing the road without looking and talking to strangers. The job of a parent is endless.
But top that off with trying to teach them how to navigate the internet safely, and many parents feel helpless. Most of the time, it’s because they feel their kids know far more about the online world than they do. And quite frankly, that’s probably true.
But that doesn’t mean we throw up our hands or wave the white flag and concede. No. Just the opposite. We need to equip ourselves with knowledge and strengthen our resolve by educating ourselves on what we can do to raise a generation of good digital citizens who can navigate the online world safely and wisely.
The first step in this process is to have a willingness to learn. Find out where your children are spending their time online. For example, what apps are they using and what sites do they visit? Then educate yourself on those platforms. Ask your child to help you! Have open and honest conversations about why they like these particular apps and then discuss the pros and cons…not in a threatening manner, but in a way that allows them to be open with you.
Next, set up guidelines on internet use and explain why those boundaries are important. Kids will spend as much time as we allow them to on their devices. And too much screen time can have all kinds of negative effects on their mental, emotional, and physical health.
As in all aspects of parenting, if one thing doesn’t work, try a different approach. Ask your child to give you their opinion on what they should or shouldn’t do online. Remind them that everything they do online is permanent and nothing is private….even if they think they are in a private chat or group message, anyone can take a screenshot and share it with the world. Decide on what rules are important in your home for your kids, and then you abide by them as well.
One thing we never allowed our teens to do was bring their devices to the dinner table. So guess what happened when I was expecting a call and laid my phone beside my plate? Yep. My kids took it away and put it in another room. And I thanked them. I returned that call after dinner, and the person thought it was hilarious.
Finally, be aware that dangers do exist online, and you should have an action plan in place should they infiltrate your home. There are platforms that are designed to help safeguard kids in the online world. Maybe you would feel better researching the best option for your family and downloading it to your devices. The reality is, nothing is 100% full proof.
The best course of action we have as parents is to build those relationships with our children so that we can have open communication where they feel comfortable and safe in sharing anything that might make them feel awkward on the internet. And, if you begin to feel like you have mastered this task, feel free to write the manual for other parents. I’m sure it would be a bestseller!