I love the internet, it entertains me, educates me and offers me a wide variety of different escapes from every day stresses that life places in my path. My business thrives on the internet. Some days it seems like my kids base their days on the internet like it was the sunrise. But the internet can also be a scary place too. And while I run a fair amount of my business online and do my best to monitor my children’s activities it’s hard to stay on top of things. My husband and I consider ourselves to be progressive parents and have always been open with our children about the good bad and ugly of the internet. We are open with them about what CAN happen online and let them know that ‘stranger danger’ is not just something they need to be mindful of on the streets. We talk with them about it so they know what to do if and when someone approaches them online in a way that makes them uncomfortable. See we are living in a time where kids need to be prepared for the digital age early. And yes while I want to keep my kids as innocent for as long as possible the reality is the internet is not that place. And I, as a parent want and need to prepare my kids early. My husband and I understand that they will start hanging out with friends soon and will be doing more on their own so the better the foundation they have the more prepared they will be.
How to teach your kids for internet safety:
- Talk to them. Having an open discussion about the internet. Don’t shy away from it and let your child know your feeling about it. When my husband and I decided to allow our kid access to the web they were 4 and 6 and we spoke to them about it just like we did when we talked about inappropriate body touching by strangers. You can have these talks with your child(ren) and use vocabulary that will be understood by them without scaring them to kingdom come.
- Be open to questions about the internet. So this is a hard one. Sometimes we often don’t realize our kids are asking questions because they are so random in their approach. They’ll say something like ‘Hey Mom can I try XYZ’ And all you hear is wait where did you hear about that and NO you can’t. That’s the perfect opportunity to have a talk with your kid about
- Let your child(ren) know what is and ISN’T acceptable to post online. So in our home, we have internet safe zones. My kids can play online and take selfies but they aren’t allowed to post ANYTHING that was taken in their bedroom, that shows anything pertaining to their private space and we also incorporated the following
- Use only a screen name and don’t share passwords (other than with parents)
- I have limited my posting and sharing of my children and ask them if I can post a photo I’ve taken of them
- Never post or trade personal pictures without first asking a parent. (this is a flex rule and will change as they get older and are better able to make their own decisions)
- Never reveal personal information, such as address, phone number, or school name or location.
- Don’t hesitate to tell a parent or other trusted adult about any communication or conversation that was scary or hurtful or made you feel uncomfortable in any way.
- Yes as a professional photographer and online influencer it’s often a bit more difficult when I want to share a pretty photo but if I want my children to trust me this is where it starts. They have feelings and I want to respect them.
- Ask your children to guide you– Yes while it seems that kids know their way around the internet a lot better than most adults take that as a cue to ask your child to teach you about the latest apps or newest iPhone feature. You’ll not only get the skinny on what’s trending you’ll have some much needed parent-kid time and you’ll also see what your kid knows too. Sneaky no way. Kids love to show off their skills so why not be on the receiving end of that knowledge.
We live in a very urban area of Philadelphia and we as parents made a promise to talk often with our kids about the things they see in the streets. When those topics carry into what they see online well…
We as parents and business owners need to know and be ready for the next generation and I want my kids educated and not fearful. I’ve always said we don’t learn confidence in our 30’s. We learn it throughout our lives as gain new experiences. So It’s our job as parents to navigate these internet waters with our children. Teach them how to be confident, gain control and what to do in every situation.
Be prepared and know what to do and who to turn to when you need help that’s all we can teach our children.