The internet. It offers enormous opportunities to communicate!
Most of us – including kids – do all kinds of things online. We connect through email, text and instant messaging. We post and distribute pictures and videos.
We may have profiles on social networks, where we share our lives, our plans and our thoughts with hundreds of people.
These ways of communicating and socializing can be convenient and fun – yet they come with certain risks.
Many parents wonder, “how should I talk to my kids about being safe online?
A booklet called Net Cetera provides some practical tips. It’s based on the idea that the first step to protecting kids online is more about talking than technology.
When kids want important information, they turn to their parents.
So talk to them about your values – honesty, fairness, courtesy, or whatever values are most important in your family – and how they apply in an online setting.
By communicating your values and expectations, you’ll help your kids make smarter, more thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations online.
Here are some things to talk about:
Social Networking sites, chat rooms and blogs are some ways kids socialize online. They can help kids connect with friends, but it’s important to help your children learn how to navigate these spaces safely.
Among the pitfalls: sharing too much information, and posting pictures or video that can hurt someone’s feelings or damage a reputation.
Talk to your kids about applying good judgment to help minimize those pitfalls.
Most mobile phones have cameras and can shoot video, making it easy for teens to capture and share every moment on the go.
Encourage kids to think about their privacy and that of others before they share photos and videos.
Cyberbullying is bullying that happens online – and it’s a lose-lose proposition.
It makes the person being harassed feel bad – and it makes the bully look bad.
Talk to your kids about treating others with respect, and let them know they can talk to you if someone harasses them.
If that happens, encourage your kids to block the bully if they can, and ignore him or her if they can’t. That’s because bullies are looking for a reaction.
If it continues, ask your kids to save the evidence and share it with you or another adult they trust.
Mean behavior usually stops pretty quickly when someone speaks up.
Encourage your kids to stand up for themselves, and to stand up for someone else being cyberbullied.
And talk to your kids about treating others online the same way they want to be treated.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind.
Start early: Young kids see their parents using smart phones and computers. So as soon your kids use one themselves, it’s time to talk to them about safety.
Initiate conversations: Don’t wait for kids to come to you. Use everyday chances to talk with them: news stories about cyberbullying, a storyline on TV – both can be the start of a good conversation.
Be patient: Most kids need small bits of information repeated – often – for it to really sink in. Keep talking; chances are it’ll pay off.
Read Net Cetera for more information about chatting with your kids about being safe online. It’s free. And you’ll find it at OnGuardOnline.gov.