As I’m talking to people about the internet and how it’s integrating into their lives, a couple things come to mind today.
First, I took a short walk with the dog the other day as I like to do, and as I was walking, I heard voices up ahead. As I got closer, there were two young kids out enjoying the sunshine and nice weather raking their yard. They were probably brother and sister and maybe were 12 and 14 years old. As I got closer, I got a wave from the sister and a wave and a hello from the brother. Of course I waved and tossed out a friendly “Hi there!” to the young workers and went on my way.
And, I know this is out of order, but the day before that, I was asked by a friend about their daughter and how she downloaded some games on their iPad. She was now playing them online with who knows who from who knows where. They were told by some friends not to worry about it as it’s pretty easy to assume that they’d be playing games online with kids of similar ages and interests. Essentially, I told them that was probably true, but with some caveats. I told them that the research shows that the chances of a child being harassed or solicited online are extremely rare and that of course she shouldn’t worry, but should in fact just be more prepared and in tune with their kids.
Here’s what I told my friend and what I see is really the key to keeping kids safe online:
More than likely, it’s not ever going to be an issue. But, it’s always good to stay involved and make sure that if she comes across anything that makes her uncomfortable, to come and talk to you, but I’m sure that’s not a problem. Obviously, you can set higher restrictions on things ( http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4213 ) but that will never take the place of making sure she’ll talk to you when something out of the norm happens… Also, make sure she doesn’t use *any* identifying info in her accounts, name, initials, city, birthday, etc. You know, the common sense stuff. Here’s a great resource I just connected with where you can learn a ton more. http://www.connectsafely.org/ and a bunch of good links on my site: http://www.backleft.com/2011/02/14/internet-safety-and-cell-phone-safety-for-your-kids/ Let me know how it goes!!
So, anyway, the point of all of this is that the chance of your child being contacted inappropriately online is not as bad as people might want you to think. Just like when your kids are outside and someone they don’t know walks by. We can’t teach our children to be afraid, but we must teach them to be prepared. These two friendly kids gave me a wave and a hi, and I gave a wave and a hi back. And that’s what we do with our neighbors in this world. And that’s how we need to teach them to play their games online: be kind, be nice and be smart.
What happened next was perfect. This friend emailed me and said that her…
…daughter was playing a downloaded game this morning and was using the built in chat in the game to talk to the other player who is a stranger. We discussed why this is not a good idea. She said she wouldn’t do it and she would let me know if someone tries to contact her and get personal info from her. I am now looking to see if there is a way to lock down chat from these apps.
I also have her games on my phone and I play some of them with her. I figure if she just wants to play around with chat and it is fun to use then she can chat with me (which she is doing ). That way some of the curiosity factor is satisfied and certainly the fun factor is also! I am having fun being a part of her world this way.
This made my day in a few ways. First, the communication between mother and daughter has opened up in a new, important way. Second, the Mom now has more knowledge of what apps the daughter is downloading and using and also has them on her phone (even if you can’t lock down the chat feature, you need to know them). And third, Mom is having fun being a bigger part of her world. What a great way to build your relationship with your kids and take this online journey together!
That’s the key!