I’ve gathered a few tips for parents on how and when to start talking to your kids about online safety. It’s a good follow-up to last week’s article on 8 Ideas to Help Your Kids Communicate Safely Online.
As soon as your kids start to use the computer is the right time to start talking to them about how to be safe.
Create an honest, open environment.
Make sure they’re comfortable talking to you about things that come up in their lives.
Sometimes opening up to them first about age-appropriate issues can model to them how they can start to talk to you.
Communicate your values & how they apply online.
Just as you teach your children manners, politeness and gratitude, teach them how and when is the right time to use the internet and what’s appropriate or not for them to look at and why. Many times parents forget to teach children the ‘why’ of things when I believe that’s an important piece to remember.
Be patient, your teaching your kids one of the most powerful tools around.
Guidance for Different Ages
Close, hands-on supervision. You will probably be navigating for them and teaching them about the computer. This is a big door-opener for your children and it’s worth considering the right age to do this. Personally, I’m in no hurry for kids to get online when there’s so much imagination and outside play time to be had. But every child and family is different.
Guided exploration is important at this point. They’re able to navigate on their own and can experiment and search for different websites. At this point, I believe children should know what they’re going to find if they’re not careful. Not to scare them or tempt them, but to give them the tools to know how to respond to what they find. Computers should also be in a common area in the home where activity can be monitored so you can help and guide them.
Are typically independent, with mobile access (in fact, with the absence of pay phones in public schools, it’s fairly expected for kids to have cell phones). Since they can get online whenever they want to, they need to know about the consequences of what they do online. Important messages to share:
Make sure they know where information is coming from and how to know if it’s a trusted source or not.
Once it’s posted, you can’t take it back.
Any images or text will most likely always be online when posted. Share with them how this information can be found by future employers or relationships and the impression it gives and possible outcomes.
Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.
I would call this a fairly universal rule that is appropriate online and offline. There’s never any reason to do or say anything to anyone that would upset them. Email or texting is already a tough communication medium and there’s no reason to complicate it any more than it already is.
I hope this gives you a good place to start talking to your kids about being safe online. Make sure you start talking early and be honest about the internet. It’s worth it to teach your children the right things from the start and not hide the problems from them. Obviously, it also depends on their age and abilities, but as soon as you start, I think you’ll find that it gets easier and that your kids will appreciate the stronger relationship your building with them.
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