Online Safety Tips for Kids (And Their Parents!)
This blog is a decade old. Seeing as my son is almost 13, he is has grown up online – at least in these archives. It has been an interesting learning experience for him, and us, as he’s grown.
I used his real name when I started because many other mom bloggers were making up cutesy names and I figured “Greeble” was goofy enough. That came back to bite us when his friends first learned how to Google each other and started reading stories about his diaper rash. Super quickly many posts got moved to “private” to protect his privacy. It even changed the whole tenor of the site: as he has grown up, there are less stories about him here because the stories are not mine to tell.
I have always been a bit of a stickler for following the COPPA age 13 standard for social networks. I recognize that every family finds their own way, but in addition to being a rule follower – having a public blog has taught me things about dealing with the online world. As Dex approaches this milestone, we have been prepping him, taking things slowly and learning about the every evolving landscape together.
Here are some tips that have helped us, and our kid:
1. Take it slowly.
We did end up getting Dex a cell phone earlier than expected (end of 5th grade) but we were able to ease into it. We had the summer to teach him how to use his phone, and understand the ramifications of his actions. He had to sign a cell phone contract, and we revisit it often. We did not allow any access to social networks, knowing the phone and texting was enough to get started with. Recently though, we did allow Dex to get an Instagram account but we kept it private, only allowed him to follow and be followed by select people we knew, and even put a warning in his bio: “This is a minor account monitored by my parents.” Seems extreme? Well, he rarely gets follow requests.
2. Don’t give out identifying details.
This seems obvious in our online world, but sometimes it gets tricky. Of course we all know to be careful, but I have seen Dex’s friends give out everything from cell phone numbers to bodily descriptions. Dex got in trouble early on because he commented on a Doctor Who video that he couldn’t wait to see the anniversary movie. You know. A movie that was playing in one theater on one night at one time. So, basically he had announced where he would be and what time he would be there. Oopsie. Unfortunately, when you start interacting online, there is lots of think about.
3. Keep up with what is popular.
I prefer Twitter above all but I know that many teens are using SnapChat. I don’t care for SnapChat but I have it downloaded and have an account just to understand how it works. What is most popular changes all the time, so talk to each other about what your teen likes, and also search online (Mashable, Engadget, and other tech sites will update on this regularly). I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to parents who have no clue what their kids have downloaded.
4. Think about what gets shared.
I feel for kids today, and understand why apps like SnapChat are so appealing. They are getting bombarded with messages that everything they post will stay with them forever. But it is the sad truth. And even sadder, we have a responsibility for what we post about our friends.
5. Use technology to your advantage.
Sure, all this is scary but the great thing about this social media is the connection. Apps like Find My Friends and Life 360 allow both parent and child to know where each other is geographically at all times and this is amazing! Just today, I was able to look up where my son was in PERU during a school trip. Also, texting has opened a whole new world of communication, in that we chat anytime, anywhere. So, yes, kids should be careful about who they talk to but they can also be talking to US!
So there you have it – some tips from me!
What else would you add?
This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal URLs that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world.