Is there a rampant problem with kids getting into trouble online? I would say no, but it does happen. As I recently learned with a child very close to me, depending on the problem, getting into trouble one time because of poor online choices can be one time too many.
Yes, technology changes rapidly. Yes, there is seemingly a new hot app every week that kids are feverishly downloading. What are you to do as a parent? I think I have the solution regardless of what new technology is created. Here is what I practice with my own daughter who has a phone, laptop and tablet.
TALK AND LISTEN
So what if your child knows more about technology than you. You have a Ph.D. in life experiences. Your experience can really help your child make better technology choices and better life choices overall. Talk to them about how people lie online and are not who they claim to be. Talk to them about oversharing. Don’t post your entire name, address, phone number, what school you go to, or any other personally identifiable information.
Children should not tell strangers about problems they are having with their parents. Predators often befriend and groom victims based on overshared information. Let your kids know (despite what the makers of Snapchat say) that anything posted online is forever; it does not go away in a puff of smoke. Let them know that there are apps (SnapBox, Snapchat Saver, SnapCrack) that are designed specifically to take pictures of pictures taken using SnapChat.
Tell your child to keep her clothes on and don’t send naked or half naked pictures to her really cute boyfriend that she is just so in love with. That cute and loving boyfriend can become an evil revenge porn guy soon after she breaks up with him. He is now mad and dejected and decides to share all of your child’s nude pictures with his buddies. You’ll be amazed at how quickly sexting photos spread around on the Internet.
In between all of the talking, be quiet and listen. Listen to your child when he talks to you about what apps he uses, what apps his friends use, his online experiences and those of his friends. Let your kids know that they can always come to you with any problem.
Have a very good idea about what is going on with your children and the apps, websites and other technology they use. I know it can be almost like having a part-time job trying to keep up with technology, but isn’t your child worth you best effort? Make it a regular habit to visit websites that will help you learn and stay up to speed. If possible, subscribe to those websites so the information automatically comes directly to you. One of my favorite sites is Common Sense Media. If you are not familiar with Common Sense Media, they review apps, websites, books, games, TV shows, movies, and music and tell you what is appropriate and not appropriate based on your child’s age.
Common Sense Media has made it very easy to keep up with what is going on. They have a new app you can put on your phone. Speaking of keeping up with technology, have you heard of Jott Messenger? I can’t think of any new app that is more popular than Jott is right now.
I believe in monitoring my 10 year old daughter. There are parents that say children deserve privacy. I used to be on the fence about monitoring, should I or should I not. If I do monitor, how much is too much? Well last year I officially jumped off the fence and landed on the side of monitoring. The child of someone I know personally made some poor choices using an app that was on her phone. The phone was not really being monitored. As a result of the choice that was made, this young lady had to have tests done to see if she had any sexually transmitted diseases and\or if she was pregnant. She also had to go to counseling. Are you a parent that is for 100% privacy for your kids? Have you ever had to wait for STD or pregnancy results for your daughter to come back from a lab? Have you ever had to talk to law enforcement about what happened to your daughter? Have you watched the agonizing counseling sessions your daughter had to go through, and all because of a very unfortunate interaction with a much older stranger? Nothing is 100%, but perhaps these types of problems could be avoided if monitoring was in place.
From my own online research and some hands-on testing, I have yet to find a parental control product that does everything I want it to do. Currently my favorite is Qustodio. I use Qustodio to monitor every device my daughter uses.
(Click on the links above for two stories I want you to see.)
You are the parent. You are the CEO of your household. Do your very best to protect your child and to raise a wonderful, well-adjusted, and productive member of society.
John L. Jones